Olivia Vanden Elzen Making the Most of College Opportunities


Joseph Giganti, Adah Danen, Staff Writers, Journalism I

It’s well known that the college experience allows students much more time and freedom than their previous four years of high school. But how exactly do you take advantage of that? 

Meet Olivia Vanden Elzen, a 2019 graduate from Notre Dame Academy. 

Vanden Elzen attends Grand Canyon University, a private, non-denominal Christian college, in Phoenix, Arizona. The school has 22,000 students. 

Vanden Elzen is majoring in communications and wanted to share her college journalism experience with NDA’s Journalism I class.

“I really got into communications because of this (journalism) class right here,” Vanden Elzen said on why she decided to go into communications. 

She is minoring in Spanish and going for an ESL (English as a Second Language) certificate in April. 

Vanden Elzen hopes to start teaching abroad in Costa Rica once she graduates next winter. 

Vanden Elzen especially likes GCU for many reasons. 

First off, it’s a great place to learn Spanish. The school has a lot of immigrants from Mexico, Vanden Elzen says, and her roommate is from Colombia. 

Secondly, she has a lot of family there. Her uncle and aunt, as well as her grandparents, live in Phoenix. In fact, they’re the ones who got her interested in GCU in the first place. 

“Junior year, I went out to Phoenix for spring break, and my uncle said I should check it out, and I didn’t really want to. But I went and, I know it sounds cliched, but I instantly loved it,” said Vanden Elzen. 

Because she went to a private, Catholic school, she got a lot of scholarships, and it ended up being cheaper there than it would’ve been for in-state tuition. 

Vanden Elzen is taking advantage of her time there. She fills her free time with a myriad of activities.

Vanden Elzen does freelance writing, participated in a lip-sync battle (and got second place), gives campus tours, helps her friends with their business social media accounts, plays intramural basketball, travels to Colorado each winter, and leads middle-school students on DC tours in the summer. 

“In college, you still have quite a bit of homework, but it’s more project-based that’s due every two weeks, but it’s not eight classes, it’s four classes, and it’s a lot more manageable,” she explained. 

Vanden Elzen has a kindred spirit, one of her role models. 

“My mom is one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met, and cares and loves me so much, and is so supportive of all my adventures,” said Vanden Elzen. 

     –Joseph Giganti


“I’m pretty involved in college,” said Olivia Vanden Elzen, a student at Grand Canyon University.

Vanden Elzen is in her third year at GCU, and is majoring in communications. 

“You’ve heard of a Renaissance man. Olivia is a Renaissance woman. She’s involved in a lot of different things,” said English/journalism teacher Carolyn Brown. 

Vanden Elzen is involved in different clubs, sports and teams in her college community. 

Vanden Elzen works on her college campus as a school tour guide and is a resident’s assistant in her dorm. 

She’s part of the school’s club pickleball team and is involved in their softball, soccer and basketball intramural teams. 

Vanden Elzen even performed with a lip-sync group in front of her entire school. 

She hopes to become an ESL (English as a second language) teacher in Costa Rica. 

“I’ve always liked helping people,” said the NDA alum. 

Vanden Elzen recently applied for a summer job opportunity in Alaska that would open the door to rafting, hiking and exploring the northwestern state. 

She loves to travel and has visited 45 of the 50 states but said Ireland is her favorite place she’s ever traveled. 

Based on all her adventures, we can only wonder where she might end up. 

   –Adah Danen