I’d be remiss not to just say it outright: things are weird. And scary. All of us at Southwestern have been dealt wildly different hands and are dealing with them in different ways. But there is one outstanding common denominator among the students: there are a lot of things we miss about Southwestern. Of course we all know that we’ll have to say goodbye to Southwestern someday, but that’s something we’re able to prepare for. And this isn’t how it feels when we’re on break for the summer, when you might miss just being in school in general and are looking forward to the next semester, because school hasn’t really stopped: we’re still working and learning. But the experience of being in school without really being there has made a lot of us realize that there was something truly special about being on campus that we took for granted. Here are what a few students had to say about what they miss about Southwestern.

I miss…
…the community

In a time of social distancing and isolation, it goes without saying that the biggest thing all of us miss are other people. Going out to restaurants, parties, and football games with our friends feels like a lifetime ago. However, the most persistent sense of longing comes from the absence of the seemingly smallest and most mundane interactions. After all, it isn’t just the big or special events that have been put on hold; the everyday has come to a standstill as well. “At a certain point, there’s no difference in taking classes online or at home: a lecture in a room is just a lecture in a room once you get over how weird it is to hear your professor’s voice while you’re next to a pile of dirty laundry and an unmade bed,” says Tyler Anderson ’22. “The hardest part is when the lecture is over and you hit that red ‘end call’ button, and you’re left on your own staring at a blank computer screen instead of making the trek to comms with your classmates, discussing course material or something funny your professor said or did, or calling your friends to see if they’re out yet. No matter what your major is or what year you are, one of the loudest things you’ll hear on campus in a given week day is class letting out, and the absence of that is a deafening silence.” How much we miss those small moments shows us how much we take even the most simple, passing chats for granted, how special the Southwestern community is, and how integral those little moments have become in our daily lives.

Southwestern University

…the faculty and staff

Those small, meaningful moments we’ve come to value so much aren’t shared with just our peers. Even though we’re still able to see our professors and speak with them, being able to do so at allotted times with a screen in the way just isn’t the same. Our professors have been working even harder than they normally do to ensure that we’re still getting the education we’re so grateful to have, but not being able to hang around after class and drop by their office when we have the time has done seemingly the impossible: it has made classes feel impersonal. Even though the faculty at SU have done so much to make sure they’re still available when we need them, even if it’s not to talk about class, there’s nothing quite like lightheartedly complaining about your job or sharing exciting life updates with your favorite professors. But that isn’t possible right now since many of us aren’t able to work and the most exciting life update a lot of us have to offer is moving in a new villager in Animal Crossing. “I never realized how accustomed I had gotten to words of encouragement from Dr. Sihi, Dr. Ross’s sarcasm, or going into the MarCom office everyday and getting to work on a whole bunch of collaborative projects with some awesome people,” says Justin Cruz ’20.  “A lot of the small, day-to-day interactions I’ve had with professors, friends, bosses, etc. that didn’t mean much at the time but do now, or the fact that being at SU I am surrounded by people I care about 24/7, is something I really miss, too.”

My team

…my team

Student athletes have been hit in an especially poignant way by having to leave campus. They’ve not only had to lose the same special day-to-day interactions we all have, but they’ve had to separate from their teammates and can no longer participate in their sports as well. For many of our athletes, their sports have been a constant facet of both their education and their lives, and there simply isn’t a digital stand-in for the real thing (except maybe Wii Sports or something. But who still has a functional Wii? *cough cough* me ). Sara Le ’22, a member of our tennis team, remarks, “What I miss about Southwestern the most is my teammates and the competition inside of us that makes us who we are. Tennis has been a talent I’ve stuck with for the past 15 years, and being able to use that talent at our high-class program is definitely a gift. I miss all of the moments I’ve spent with my teammates, on and off the court. It’s the amount of energy and effort that excites me every time I step on the court. They’re the reason why I chose Southwestern, no questions asked.”

BBQ in Lordes

…the college experience

When I say “college experience,” I don’t mean pulling all nighters and consuming enough ramen to dehydrate an elephant. To me, the most important part of the college experience (although not the most exciting) is getting to explore newfound independence—and the responsibilities that come with it. For a lot of us who are back with our parents, we don’t have to rely on ourselves for everything anymore. We simply aren’t having to devote nearly as much time or effort into making sure we’re getting places on time, keeping entire dorms or apartments clean, or thinking about where we’re going to get our food for the day. Living on your own in college is like a demo of running a household, and a lot of us aren’t having to do that anymore. “Southwestern has been the perfect safe space to make mistakes and grow,” says Mary Ballew ’22. Losing that freedom makes it harder for me to learn the most important (and still very much ongoing) lesson: how to be an adult and how to succeed in the best way for myself.” One of the greatest things about Southwestern is that, yes, you do have to learn how to be self-reliant but you are never without help or support when you need it.

And for those of us who may not have been living on campus or aren’t quarantining with family, the dissolution of structure makes it so easy for daily responsibilities to fall through the cracks. Southwestern truly is one of the best environments in which to learn how to be an adult. It’s a place that encourages structure and creates a feeling of reward for exercising responsibility and discipline. After all, it’s harder to feel proud of waking up and going to class when you can just roll out of bed directly into an office chair rather than having to scrape yourself out of bed when your alarm goes off and actually get ready to go out and face the day.

Library Study Session

…so much more than I thought I would

I suppose the silver lining amid all of this is the newfound appreciation for Southwestern that we’ve all uncovered. It’s a place that offers so, so much more than just a degree. It’s a place that brings people together in some of the smallest yet most meaningful ways. It has some of the kindest, most supportive faculty higher education has to offer, bar none. It’s a place that takes tremendous pride in its athletes, and it’s a school our athletes are proud to represent. It’s a place that goes above and beyond to set us up for success, not just in our education and careers but as people. And, perhaps most importantly, it’s a place I can’t wait to return to and will cherish even more when I leave.

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