Building Beyond BuSA

Cayden Olsrud (SFS ‘24) Reflects on Lessons Learned from Buddhism

By Maya Mohosin (C ’27)

A headshot of Cayden Olsrud. He's wearing a blue sweater with sunflowers, over a white shirt.

Cayden Olsrud (SFS ‘24)

When Cayden Olsrud first arrived on the Hilltop, he was struck by a sense of isolation. Leaving the comforts of his hometown of Seattle, WA during the COVID-19 pandemic was not easy. At Georgetown, he wanted to find a space of belonging, so he joined the Buddhist Student Association (BuSA) in his sophomore year. 

Cayden was raised in an interfaith, but not particularly devout, household consisting of his Chinese Buddhist mother and American Lutheran father. Yet he always felt these traditions were pieces of his cultural identity, not his spiritual and religious identity. Still, he decided to join BuSA as a way to address the loneliness and sense of purposelessness brought about by the pandemic, but he came away with so much more.

When Cayden first arrived on campus, BuSA needed reviving, so he and his friend, Yanlin Wu (C’24) decided to rebuild the club and help shape the Buddhist community at Georgetown. They wanted to create a space for a robust, tight-knit community dedicated to and connected through Buddhist teachings and practices, especially meditation. 

A group of students in front of a Buddhist shrine, kneeling before a display of candles.

 BuSA board members celebrating the first anniversary of the Dharmic Meditation Center.

During the early days of rebuilding BuSA, Cayden realized that Buddhism doesn’t belong to a single cultural community; rather, it is a collective experience emphasizing growth through Buddhist teachings and meditation. Guided by this realization, the values of personal understanding, wisdom, and morality, and his vision for BuSA, Cayden eventually grew the club to almost 40 people. Today, the club fosters friendships within and beyond BuSA. It also offers students weekly meditation sessions, social gatherings, and opportunities to learn about other Buddhist traditions and meditation through events such as visits to temples in the DMV. 

It was during one such visit that Cayden found the third member of the BuSA board. Cayden, joined by Yanlin, a student driver, and Yoon Yati Oo (MSB’25) were visiting Kunzang Palyul Choling, a temple in Maryland when Cayden’s passion for building up BuSA kicked in. He befriended the new student welcoming her to Georgetown’s Buddhist community. Seeing Cayden’s commitment to the club and the dedication to Buddhist teachings and principles the new student joined the BuSA board.

A Buddhist monk poses with students inside a temple.

BuSA visiting Bub Hwa Sa Korean temple in Annandale, VA.

After rebuilding BuSA, Cayden joined the Campus Ministry Student Forum (CMSF), where he engaged with students from other faith traditions on campus and realized the importance of collaboration and advocacy. This new experience taught him about faith communities he wouldn’t have typically encountered, he learned about the other clubs’ operational processes and how to collaborate with and value these different groups and perspectives.

After graduation, Cayden hopes to become a high school teacher in Washington, D.C. The many lessons he learned from leading the BuSA and serving on the CMSF have helped him understand how to accommodate and accompany people from different backgrounds. Cayden hopes his work teaching meditation with BuSA, and consensus building with the CMSF, will serve him as a teacher in the future.

While Cayden is sad to be leaving his community on the Hilltop, he is reminded of the Buddhist teaching of impermanence. He is excited for a new leadership team to take BuSA in a new direction and hopes his contributions to both organizations sustain them and that they continue to prosper in the coming years. 

Photos courtesy of Cayden Olsrud (SFS ‘24).

Maya Mohosin (C ’27) is a communications assistant for Campus Ministry.

Class of 2024
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