As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across North America in March, graduating students at Grebel came to the heartbreaking realization that they would not be ending their university career as they had imagined it. With just a few days to tie up loose ends and move out of the residence, good-byes were rushed and stressful.
The End-of-Term Chapel service, Banquet, and Talent Show had to be cancelled. Grebel’s Convocation—the ultimate celebration of hard work and achievement—was postponed, tentatively to be held in October.
Despite these sudden setbacks and disappointments, Grebel students have shown their resilience. A beloved tradition at both the Winter End-of-Term Chapel service and the Community Supper prior to the Banquet is when several graduating students are asked to reflect on their university and Grebel experience. This year, students shared their reflections over Zoom videoconferencing, as nearly 100 students, staff, and faculty listened in.
Excerpts gathered in this spread hint at the powerful stories of hard-won insights, personal growth, and deep friendships shared by five graduating students. The reflections were almost more meaningful heard online at a distance, as listeners pondered the deep connections that they were missing during this time of social isolation.
Bachelor of Applied Science, Systems Design Engineering, Cognitive Science minor
If I were to go back in time to talk to my younger self, I would tell her that being uncertain of yourself and your abilities is normal and common when going through university. Focus less on the outcomes and more on the process. Stop comparing yourself to others but surround yourself with others who see the potential in you. At Grebel there have been many occasions when others have offered me a spot at the table when I didn’t think I belonged.
At Grebel I’ve also learned that having doubts or uncertainties in your faith is normal, that not everything is black or white. I learned to find awe in the wonder, and honestly, it’s comforting to me to know that I can’t fully comprehend how awesome and complex our God is.
“Uncertainty” now is basically a buzzword, up there with “unprecedented” and “flattening the curve.” Now more than ever we collectively need to learn how to deal with uncertainty. It is clear that people deal with uncertainty in different ways, so blanket statements of advice seem futile. My encouragement to you, though, is that you’ve all dealt with uncertainty in the past and you’ve overcome it. We will overcome it, and we will grow from it
Bachelor of Science, Honours Kinesiology
Coming to university, I knew there would be many opportunities to build connections. The most valuable connections I have made in my academic program of Kinesiology are as a result of connecting with peers and those more knowledgeable than I am. Through them I have learned more about what I am studying, and they have opened my eyes to new opportunities and possibilities to grow.
When it comes to the Grebel community, I have connected and worked with so many different people. The diversity of this community is incredible, and I have learned so much from the various discussions and groups I have been a part of. Working with the Chapel Committee and Choir involved people from many different faith and family backgrounds. Each week I looked forward to the new insights that Ed, Kate, and the rest of the Chapel team had to offer. They challenged me to think in new ways about my faith and opened my eyes to new ways to worship, all while sharing the love and joy that this community exudes.
I will keep these connections, lifelong friendships, and memories as I move onto the next chapter of my life, because they provided me with a strong foundation and people that I can rely on in the years to come.
Bachelor of Science, Honours Science, Medical Physiology minor
When I began university, I thought I already knew who I was and that this identity would be unmoving. But change kept rolling in, and who I am now feels so far from who I was then. I’ve found friends that I know will last lifetimes. I’ve at last narrowed in on a career path I can’t wait to pursue. I realized what love looks like for me and came out to my community.
All this change led to incredible outcomes, yet still was difficult to go through. Why that is, I think, lies partially in how I defined change to myself. I made mistakes in thinking of change as an inconvenience, not an opportunity—an event instead of a process. Re-framing how I think about the change in my life has been one of the biggest blessings of my Grebel journey.
Newness is something everyone encounters every day and can be hard to adapt to. But viewing this unpredictable pattern of change as an opportunity to build beauty and learning and growth into my life has helped me bridge the disconnect between the difficulty of change and the positivity of the outcomes. Surrendering to the improvisation of life has helped me to live into all the great things these past four years have given me.
Bachelor of Arts, Global Business and Digital Arts
When reflecting on my time at Grebel I can’t help but smile. Grebel has shaped my entire university experience, through the highs and the lows, and it has helped me become the person that I am today.
Sometimes we shy away from what we don’t know, or what we think might be weird— but the value of taking the leap of faith can be life-giving. In addition to saying yes to Grebel’s many opportunities, it was at Grebel that I gained the confidence to say yes to myself, and create my own opportunities.
In second year, I coordinated a group of students to perform a musical number— something I had wanted to do for a long time—but had assumed no one would want to do it with me. After fighting with my internal fears of rejection, I decided to say “yes” to myself to try and make it happen. That thing I thought people would think was dumb or embarrassing brought together students from different years, programs, and friend groups. And my musical dream came true.
I love Grebel because nowhere else is there such a beautiful network of people that so badly want to support and uplift your creativity and new ideas. I believe that this community is one of the greatest blessings I’ve had in my life.
Bachelor of Science, Honours Health Studies, Joint Honours Music
I’ve been surprised by the warmth and the love of the people around me. I didn’t know I could laugh so much. I didn’t know I could be that brave. I didn’t know I could cry that hard or feel that deeply. I didn’t know I could reach those goals or that I even had those goals. I didn’t know I could have so much love for so many people. And I wouldn’t have known any of this if it weren’t for you, Grebel.
Grebel, you were nothing I expected—well, almost nothing. On my Grade 12 campus tour, a Grebel student walked with me towards the College. She told me how students sometimes say that walking up this path and seeing Grebel ahead feels like “coming home” after a long day of classes. And I remember thinking that I’d really like that. Well, Grebel, you may have defied every other expectation that I had, but when I hoped I would find a home in you, you were everything I expected and more. That’s not to say that you aren’t still surprising me.
I certainly didn’t expect to graduate like this, but I also didn’t expect that saying goodbye would be so hard. So perhaps in spite of myself, I want to thank you. Thank you, Grebel, for all the ways that you did and didn’t surprise me. Thank you for being (almost) nothing I expected, but everything I needed.