“Grebel is beyond what I wanted; it’s what I needed,” said Elizabeth Ahing, a current resident at Conrad Grebel University College. She is alsoan upper-year student at Wilfrid Laurier University, working toward a BA in Communication Studies and a minor in Leadership.

Like many students going to university, Elizabeth’s first year came with a learning curve—figuring out how to adjust to school and living away from homefor the first time. “University can be scary and isolating and you’re figuring out how to navigate everything on your own. The pressure hits you all at once,” Elizabeth shared. This period ina student’s life is pivotal, and the people who surround them can make all the difference.

Elizabeth tried to make the city of Waterloo feel like home, and one step toward that was going to church. That local church is where Elizabeth initially connected with Grebel students and heard more about a community she was yearning for. Aftereight tough monthsin “survival modeand not feeling connected with those around her, Elizabeth knew she had to make a change and prioritize her mental health. She took a chance and applied to residence at Grebel, hoping to experience the love and support she had heard so much about.

Elizabeth’s Grebel residence application was filled with hope to embrace a sense of community—a new home with people that couldhelplift her out of tough times. “The support is something I didn’t expect to see in such volume,” expressed Elizabeth. “You get support for anything here. Anything you are struggling with orwanting to get done, whether it beforschool, your personal life, finding a job, or fort-building activities.

As Elizabeth became accustomed to her environment, she began to flourish and the Grebel community was there to cheer her on every step of the way. Sheexplored all the resources that were available to her, and Elizabeth discovered that the staff in Student Services wanted to see her grow just as much as she did herself. They had the willingness to adaptto help in the way she needed, whether that be a listener, provide a small snack, or just a comfortable and privatespace to reflect and relax. Elizabethrecently started attending Chapel services on Wednesdays andappreciates how it nurtures her faith and brings her peace. “Sometimes you need the midweek reminder that it’s not the end of the world and everything is going to be okay. It is nice to be surrounded by some people who take their faith seriously and offer their unique perspectives,” said Elizabeth.

AsElizabeth found the sense of belonging she had been hoping for, she realized the impact and the connections shehad madecouldlast forever. “The negative experiences I hadin my first year of residence pushed me in a positive direction, which is emphasized and supported by people here at Grebel. I only felt safe enough to explore those heavy emotions because I live in a place like this,” shared Elizabeth. “I am looking forward to further deepening my connections with the people I have met here. Home is people, not a place,” she added.I can’t wait to meet every amazing person that walks through Grebel doors. It just restores my faith in humanity.”

As staff and students turned into friends and family, Grebel earned a meaningfulplace in Elizabeth’s heart. “You can be as strange as you want to be here. You can be exactly yourself and explore every aspect of who that is,” expressed Elizabeth.She is appreciative of all Grebel offered her when she first arrived in fall 2022 and is delighted to see “all the love and support that is poured into the first years here. I know what it is like to not have that.” 

As Elizabeth reflected on the biggest difference between her first year in university and now, it is clear how a simple change has the potential to make a world of difference. “I’m happy again,” Elizabeth said. Now I have more support than I could’ve ever imagined.

By Farah Jurdi