Creating Connections through Community during Covid

Friday, April 16, 2021

Megan smilingWith the move to online learning last year, many university students decided to learn from home instead of remaining in on-campus residences. Conrad Grebel University College supported students regardless of their decision. This year, students studied from home as a virtual associate, or lived at the College as an in-person resident. Either way, students were able to connect and fend off feelings of isolation. For those who chose to live on-campus, Grebel implemented many precautions and has been dedicated to keeping the environment safe for all. The on-campus experience better allowed students to get involved in activities and truly feel like a part of the community.

In these stressful times, social isolation can be tough. This is the main reason several Grebel fall 2020 virtual associates chose to live at Grebel in winter 2021. “I decided to live on campus this term because my first term was very isolating at home, spending hours each day in my room doing school work,” Grebel resident, Cassidy Zelle said.

“While being at home and studying virtually had several advantages, I longed for community and interaction with other people my age, which I wasn’t able to get at home during the pandemic,” resident Megan Hudson added. “Coming to Grebel for the winter term was one of the best decisions I could have made as it allowed me not only to build friendships and enjoy community with other people, but it also gave me flexibility to complete schoolwork in different places around campus and with other Grebelites.”

Grebel put a lot of effort into making the virtual experience accessible, communal, and fun, for which students are extremely grateful. But nothing beats walking the Grebel grounds in person. “The virtual Grebel experience was great,” Megan said. “I was able to meet people through virtual activities and games nights, connect with upper years and first years on Discord chats, and meet faculty and staff through the Weekly Waves. But, the in-person experience has allowed me to develop even deeper relationships with people from all over Grebel—it has truly been incredible!”

alana headshotCommunity is key, and in the midst of the pandemic, student-leaders and staff kept their vibrant Grebel spirit glowing in a variety of creative and safe ways. “Even with safety restrictions in place, the spirit of community is still very much alive and well,” resident Alana Matsuo said. “We’ve had a lot of fun activities ranging from talent shows to impromptu paint nights to a Grebel masked singer competition!”

Megan added, “Staff and students have all worked very well together to make Grebel a safe, but still fun and community-based environment to live and study in. I think it is one of the best situations I could be in, to have to live through a pandemic as a university student.”

Through this creativity, Grebelites can still participate in activities. Cassidy Zelle got involved as a member of the PACS Living-Learning community, a Peace Society Representative, and an Orientation Week Leader for fall 2021 and winter 2022. “These experiences have allowed me to meet many amazing people at Grebel while also allowing me to grow as a leader,” she said. “Especially during this pandemic, I have learned how important it is to be a leader who is adaptable, find ways to make events safe for everyone, and how to make online events engaging and fun!”

Megan has participated in a mix of virtual and in-person clubs and activities such as Chapel, Tuesday Night Worship, Social Committee events, and several others. “Each event has allowed me to engage with different people and learn new things about myself and others,” she said. “They have allowed me to take a mental break from online school and enjoy myself and my time with fellow Grebelites.”

When asked about their favourite aspect of Grebel, students almost always respond with the same word. Community. Community helps students grow and learn together, form lasting bonds, and improve mental health. “Emphasis on creating connections is so important, especially in a time like this,” Alana said. “Grebel provides a feeling of support and closeness, even in such a strange and divided year.”

Written by Jace Jaeden Ellis

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