After completing a successful in-person fall on campus, students ruminate on the most defining experiences of their semester, sharing what they learned and how the experience has changed their worldview. The following submissions were written by students and edited by student writer Tolulope Arasanyin ’21 for length and clarity.
Semester of Adaptation
Lindsay Stelljes ’22
When I began to navigate this unique semester, I realized adaptation was going to be necessary to rebuild the aspects of Hobart and William Smith that I love the most. While that realization was not quick or easy, it allowed me to find moments of positivity and connection to my community. I taught kindergarten in Geneva and while it had its challenges, it was one of the most rewarding teaching experiences I have ever had. I turned to faculty that I had only utilized in an academic realm before now and forged new and strong connections. Despite challenges with the online format of classes, my classmates and I were able to have fruitful discussions. I felt fortunate to be reunited with the people I am close to on campus and worked to restore those communities.
There were certainly difficult parts about our unique semester, however, with adaptation there was also room for innovation.
Semester of Communication
Tolulope Arasanyin ’21
This semester has been filled with difficult conversations, including checking the behavior of the people around me. This semester, my friend group became my family. As a community, we prioritized our relationships, no longer seeing casual acquaintances and class buddies. We did this to protect the wellbeing of the larger community.
On a more personal level, I spent this semester getting my academic ducks in a row. I have had intense meetings with advisors, frustrating conversations with my parents and harsh conversations with myself. As a junior, I am beginning to feel the heat of post grad life. So many of my friends have solid plans for their first year out of college. Some will student teach, others will pursue post graduate education. As I experience inner turmoil about what I will do next, I have taken time to hold myself accountable for my future.
Semester of Exploration
Matthew Nusom ’23
The only way to combat unforeseen problems is with unforeseen solutions. At the beginning of the semester, the thought of confining myself within my dorm during free time scared the life out of me. I then realized that the only other place with fewer people around me than my bed was in the woods, and began exploring the surrounding parks, forests, and conservation areas within the Finger Lakes region. Locations such as Letchworth State Park, Keuka Outlet Trail and Grimes Glen served as an escape from a world filled with uncertainty. Trees don’t have cell phones, rivers don’t gossip and mountains have no opinion on elections. These natural wonders became my confidantes in a time when I needed to step back and breathe.
Looking at how I was able to turn a period of isolation into a period of exploration let me see that there will always be an opportunity somewhere. I know I will always have a place of refuge where I can escape to in times of turbulence. Knowing my time at HWS is precious, I continue to explore, regardless of setbacks.
Semester of Setbacks
Lauren DeVaney ’23
The beginning of this semester was terrible for me. I had to miss classes to have surgery and quickly fell behind on my coursework. When I finally made it back to campus, I worked to get back on track but then tested positive for COVID-19. So once again, I was sent home, fell behind on my work and experienced a physical toll on my body. I could not catch up on my economics coursework, which worried me because I had never felt so lost in a class in my life. I contemplated dropping classes many times, which I have never done before.
These final weeks of the semester, I have finally felt as though I am back on track. As frustrating as the COVID-19 restrictions are, I think they are the reason I have been able to get my life back together despite the obstacles. It’s very hard to think about the typical college activities like parties and sporting events that I’m missing out on.
Semester of Thankfulness
Jonathan Garcia ’23
How did I spend my time and cope with everything going on? I did something that gives me joy, and developed a strong connection to the Geneva community. I’ve been grateful to learn how to enjoy life from kids at the Boys & Girls Club. The Black Lives Matter protests taught me how much I do not know about the lives of others, how to educate myself, and how sharing resources helps a community. I learned the importance of supporting local businesses and I took note of how they were creatively interconnecting the community. I enjoyed meeting new people and going on runs with my friends. I grew my relationships with mentors and was humbled by our practitioners’ work at local hospitals and nursing homes. I took pride in voting to embrace the silence of people without the privilege. I admired and noted the ways HWS interconnected through socially-distant movie nights and other in-person/virtual events.
My semester was filled with trying to gently replace a negative thought or action with a positive one. I’m thankful for that.