Real-World Learning

Saint Joseph’s Student Encourages Personal Growth with Instagram Account

candles in the dark

Like many of us Saint Joseph’s University senior Nathan Vrabel had become accustomed to images of flashy gifts, vacations and “perfect” relationships crowding his social media feeds. In March, Vrabel decided he wanted to find a way to use the platforms to encourage reflective, authentic conversations centered on personal growth. Enter the Instagram account @candlelightconvos.

“With this account, I wanted to show that it was OK to not be OK, to promote vulnerability, to open up a little more,” says Vrabel. “When you think of candlelight and conversation you think of something close, something intimate.” The name is also inspired by Candlelight Drive, the street that Vrabel grew up on.  

His posts are a combination of pictures, videos and quotes that encourage mindfulness and serve as a means to open conversations. Vrabel has included posts on loneliness, resilience, gratitude, exploration, joy and “mental nutrition,” a phrase he coined to describe the effects of how we feed our minds.

At St. Joe’s, I’ve benefited from the people around me in so many ways. From my friends, classmates, professors and even alumni, I have developed so many intentional relationships that have helped me understand more about who I am and who I want to be.”

Nathan Vrabel '20

Nathan Vrabel '20 on his sophomore year APEX trip
Vrabel '20 on his sophomore year APEX trip

“I’ve always thought of people as the currency of life,” says Vrabel, who has since added a Facebook account for Candlelight Conversations and wants to start a podcast. “At St. Joe’s, I’ve benefited from the people around me in so many ways. From my friends, classmates, professors and even alumni, I have developed so many intentional relationships that have helped me understand more about who I am and who I want to be.”

In particular, Vrabel credits his sophomore year Appalachian Experience (APEX) spring break immersion trip as a defining moment in his self-exploration. On the trip, he says he realized the value in a life dedicated to service, which ultimately impacts how you treat and interact with people whose voices differ from your own.

“More than anything, I wanted to start a conversation,” he says, adding that so much on social media is a one-way street and not conducive to such give and take. “I’ve learned so much about myself in these last few years, and if I’m able, I want to help people say, ‘OK, these are the cards I’ve been dealt. What do I want to do with them, and how can I best use them to share what’s unique about me in a positive way?’.”