First Semester Reflections

Looking back with the Fall 2020 semester in the rearview

As the end of the Fall 2020 semester draws to a close, much time has been spent in reflection of this semester and all that it has represented. From Covid, to restrictions, to a different kind of community, this semester was a semester unlike anything Redeemer University has seen before. While there may have been a lot of changes and growing pains in the past three months, there were also a great deal of joy and blessings. 


Being a student in university during a global pandemic will most likely be among the stories we tell our children and grandchildren someday. For returning students, there were some difficult adjustments during this semester. Between online classes, wearing masks, social distancing, and a slightly different community, returning students found themselves in a slightly different Redeemer than they had come to know in previous years. First year students were without many of the things that make first year at Redeemer such an experience: there was no mudpit for Launch, no arranged first week mystery dorm dinners and dorm intermingling, no school wide communal meals, and no varsity home games with the entire gym packed, sweaty, and chanting “This is our house!” Students at Redeemer this year had a different sense of community with social distancing rules on campus and in the academic building, no intramural sporting events, standing six feet apart at Tim Hortons, faces of classmates on a screen in the classroom, and green stickers on seats in the auditorium that meant that you had to look at your friends from three seats away. 


While definitely different than in previous years, all of these things led to one very important blessing: that Redeemer could continue to stay open for education. All these negative things aside, this first semester has been a blessing in so many ways. First and perhaps most important, Redeemer has successfully kept its doors open for in person learning for the entire first semester. It was one of the only universities in Ontario that still offered in person classes during the pandemic, and despite the odds, it has continued to thrive. In person learning is something that has been highly valued by university students, and as such it became a priority for this to continue to be offered. The blessing of still being able to physically be sitting in a classroom, listening to a physical professor, and with physical classmates all around you (albeit from six feet away), is a large blessing indeed. Covid did strike a blow to our physical connections, but again, it is a blessing to be able to have even a small sense of normalcy in our in person classes. 


Secondly, it has been a blessing to be living in the Redeemer community. With in-person classes came the additional blessing of student residences being open and for dorm life to continue. While this may have been tough at times with the necessary restrictions in residence, the result was extremely positive and beneficial to the students of Redeemer. Dorm life has thrived this semester and friendships outside the dorm have still been cultivated with intentionality from six feet away. Even though the physical community at Redeemer looked different than it has in the past, it was undeniable that there was still a presence of community through the dorms, Bible studies, porch visits, and outdoor activities. That is one of the unique things about Redeemer; it can still foster a sense of community in the middle of a global pandemic which has struck a blow to the physical ability that people have to be in close proximity to each other. This semester has also seen a great additional blessing: warm weather that stretched into November, allowing for more memories to be made outside of the dorms before the end of this first semester. During a time when isolation has become such a big issue, Redeemer’s community has continued to grow close-knit relationships and create wonderful memories.


A reflection of this first semester during Covid would not be complete without considering what our response should be. First and foremost, we should continue to remain grateful for the opportunities we’ve had this semester. It’s easy to begin to take these blessings for granted and to focus on the things that we still don’t have, but the reality is that we are experiencing things on campus this year that most other university students will not. In person learning and living on campus are things we would not have without the efforts of Redeemer’s staff and without God’s hand in this semester. Secondly, we need to continue to do our part to ensure that Redeemer’s doors stay open! Following guidelines might seem frustrating in the short term, but the long term benefits of Redeemer staying open far outweigh these short term frustrations. 


It would be hard to find someone that has not been affected by this pandemic. On the other hand, it would also be hard to find a student at Redeemer who has not felt the blessing of Redeemer’s decision to open this fall. It may be easy to look at the situations we are currently in as completely negative, but there is always a silver lining in every situation. Throughout this “different” semester, God has still been working in the Redeemer community to strengthen and grow us. Not one person will be coming out of this pandemic the same as they were before, and this has been a great opportunity for God to be shaping us! Lives are still being touched at Redeemer, learning is still happening, and lifelong friendships are still being developed. There is still beauty in coming together on Sunday nights for Rooted Worship or Chapel. There is still joy in looking across a classroom and seeing familiar masked faces. There is still excitement in spending time together as a dorm on the weekend. There is still enjoyment in the mundane things: doing homework, cooking dinner, walking to class, passing friends in the hallways, and picking up communal on Wednesday nights. As this semester draws to a close, it is good to look back and reflect on the blessings of this first semester. There is much to be grateful for.