One of Grebel’s most treasured traditions is honoured at the end of every winter term when several graduating students are asked to reflect on their university and Grebel experiences. Again this year, students shared their reflections over Zoom, with many students, staff, and faculty in attendance. These excerpts offer a taste of Grebel’s impact on student lives.
Bachelor of Arts, Honours Peace and Conflict Studies, Religious Studies Minor
I dove into Grebel with awe and wonder, convinced I had somehow stumbled onto magic. Rather than dip my toes into the waters of community, I tested it out with a cannonball into the deep end. I loved figuring out what I would get myself into if I just said ‘yes’.
I learned in my second year that living in community takes respect, compassion, compromise, and a lot of communication. As a Don, I learned to have hard conversations, admit when I was wrong, and lean on my incredible team. Community is hard work, but it reflects what doing life together is truly like. The reward isn’t being handed community—it’s in having a hand creating it.
During my undergrad in Peace and Conflict Studies, I have had moments where I sat in class, lost for words as I wrapped my head around concepts like restorative justice, conflict transformation, or ecological justice. My faith has also been challenged and expanded as I studied different religious traditions, where I saw beautiful connections of people following convictions of justice, peace, and compassion. I’ve discovered that some big questions aren’t meant to be answered. So, whatever you do, and whatever it looks like—I implore you not to turn away from hard questions, and times of reflection. Be shaped by your experiences and the people around you.
To strangers who are now friends, I hope I will gleefully enjoy your existence for the rest of my life. To all of the books unread, mysteries undiscovered and experiences unshared, I hope I will be a student for the rest of my life. To the mentors who have challenged me, guided me, and encouraged me, may I in turn always look for those I can come along side in life. And to all of the peers, classmates, roommates, dance partners, KERP opponents and fellow adventurers, I thank you for all the memories, and I hope we will never stop creating spaces of belonging wherever we go.
Bachelor of Applied Science, Systems Design Engineering
Grebel has been a place that has encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone, to grow as a leader and as a servant. Grebel has also been something of a vocational lens for me, through PACS courses that examine the interplay between engineering, technology and peacebuilding, and through student-led initiatives like the PeaceTech Living-Learning Community that arose from the connection between Grebel residence and the Centre for Peace Advancement. Grebel is inextricably linked to my time in undergrad and how I grew through that time.
I believe that the key to the richness of life at Grebel stems from the intentional community championed by every branch of the Grebel institution. In the residence program, this manifests as the ability to strike up a conversation with just about anyone you pass in the halls, to have people show up for the ambitious events you planned, to have a second family to come home to after work terms. Building this kind of community is not trivial, and it takes two things: mechanisms and spirit. At Grebel the mechanisms are the timeless practices that we know so well: filling the table, the open-door policy, the commitment to attending Community Supper every week. These are the foundation on which a strong community of students is built year after year at Grebel. But this foundation would be purposeless without the spirit of these students to engage, to step outside of comfort zones, to accept the challenge of juggling academics, fun, sleep, spiritual growth, and much more.
Grebel has given me so much, and I will carry many lessons from my time here into the next chapters of my life: welcome in the stranger, engage with your body, mind, and spirit, and strike up that conversation.
Bachelor of Arts, Psychology and Sexuality, Marriage, and Family Studies, Music Minor
University has not been easy. I’ve taken some difficult courses, co-op was sometimes discouraging, leadership opportunities have been huge gifts while also being incredibly humbling, and it often feels like just as friendships are forming, the term ends. But Grebel is jampacked with people who keep showing up to their lives. It’s absolutely beautiful, and it’s inspired me to do my best to show up as well. One way I understand the phrase “showing up to life” is through taking risks, and Grebel is a place where it’s relatively safe to do that. Everyone at Grebel has been given the opportunity to try something new since we’ve arrived. Showing up to life is about being part of the change you want to see. It’s amazing to see all the mover-shakers show up to Grebel each year and watch how we choose to get involved. Being part of QuAQ (Queer, Allied, and Questioning) has been a fairly central part of my Grebel experience. It’s so inspiring to meet every week with people who want to make sure Grebel is the most welcoming place possible for everyone and who are willing to put in the work to make that happen. I’ve seen QuAQ grow to a crew of over 20 people that showed up to our first meeting this past September. The memory of what it was like showing up to that meeting still chokes me up whenever I think of it, because it represents to me what showing up to life really looks like and that when we show up as a community, we can have such a profound impact. Living in this community as a resident, apartment dweller, and offcampus associate has allowed me to connect with so many wonderful people over conversations at lunch tables, at planned events, and most recently, over Zoom. This isn’t the graduation experience I originally had in mind, but I am so thankful for the opportunity to continue “showing up to life” at Grebel this year, and I am so inspired to have been able witness the rest of you doing the same.
Bachelor of Mathematics, Honours Actuarial Science, Predictive Analytics Option
I was born and raised in Ghana and I moved to Canada in 2016 after one year of university there. Coming in, I was certain that I would be here solely for university and would promptly return to Ghana after I graduated. I am certain now that I want to remain in Canada for the foreseeable future, and Grebel played the largest role in this decision.
As an introvert, I wondered if I would adjust to a new country, but I soon learned a lesson I hope to keep with me for life. I learned to be open to trying and learning new things from different people with different perspectives. Without realizing that I had learned this lesson, I got involved in a lot of different things at Grebel right away, like serving in the chapel committee, helping with Tuesday Night Worship, two musicals, several Bible studies, serving as an OWL, Webmaster, GrebelSpeaks Editor, going on a service trip, and so much more. This has given me the opportunity to develop new skills and interests, and has allowed me to learn more about myself.
I would like to mention the not so fun times too. I struggled to find my first few co-op jobs, and when I finally did, they were not in my field. In those times, I was reminded to find my self-worth and value in Jesus. I also learned transferable skills that helped to shape my career path. Another low was failing the first exam I took towards becoming certified as a professional actuary. That failure taught me not to be complacent with my academics. I also experienced my first heartbreak, which taught me to be vulnerable and open with others, and it allowed me to better understand and accept my emotions. I am grateful for the loving and supportive community at Grebel that helped me get through those times and learn from them.
Over the last year, I have realized what a blessing it is to have a community like Grebel. Thank you for being a home away from home to me, and thank you to everyone who has contributed to my story.