I messaged my senior history major group chat after Ricketts’ Civil War class ended on Thursday, March 12th: “That better not have been our last Ricketts class period.” The next evening, I left Long #413 for spring break. I was hoping for one week’s interlude, but my car was loaded with everything I would need for a potential three- to four-week stay. Since then, I haven’t been back except to retrieve the rest of my belongings and return my room key. And that Thursday was in fact the last Ricketts class period for us five history graduates.
Now for the past five weeks, we’ve been working from home. At least, those of us who could get home. My roommate is “marooned” in Chattanooga with extended family until he can travel safely across the country to his home in Oregon. I know of another student living out of a suitcase with friends until her home state reopens its borders. None of us students, least of all us seniors, could have envisioned such an end to the school year. The current practical predicament of the Bryan College student body is, at best, a mixed bag. Personally, the return to home life and the transition to online school have both been comparatively smooth. As a K-12 homeschool graduate who took online classes during high school, I am somewhat back in my element. I have an excellent workspace and wired Wi-Fi. My family respects my space and time, and we enjoy each other’s. I am closer to and can spend more time with my significant other and her family. But I am afraid that I have it better than many of my peers. Some have told me they don’t have a place to work, and more that they don’t have reliable Wi-Fi. Others have families that will not respect their time or their space, or else who simply counted on their student(s) having separate housing and meals to make things work.
Being outside of an institutionalized study environment does have its setbacks, even for a homeschool grad with siblings still learning at home. I have missed three online class meetings because I simply forgot they existed. I want to partake of hobbies, personal projects, and general home life, but I have to force myself to remember that I still have a week of college left and that I want to finish strong. Technical difficulties have also been…well, difficult. I was kicked from one PCI Google Meet by a computer malfunction. Everyone has been trying to adapt to the online classroom system. Our professors have handled their new situation admirably, but a catchphrase from sophomore year still comes to mind: “technological competency is not a fruit of the Spirit.”
However, the Bryan College community has risen to meet the challenge presented by these uncertain days and weeks. The word “community” is often considered a buzzword on campus, almost equal to “worldview,” but times such as the present serve to strip away all semblances and reveal the true state of communities and relationships. The current crisis has served to demonstrate both the uniqueness of Bryan’s on-campus community, and its vitality under immense strain and external pressure.
One of the unfortunate realities of living on this side of eternity is that when we experience something on an everyday basis for an extended period of time, often we are prone to take that thing for granted and gradually become less aware of its influence and importance. Another reality is that we rarely begin to appreciate that thing again without first experiencing a period without it. As a senior spending his last weeks of undergrad away from his campus, professors, and peers, these realities have been reinforced.
In the proverbial trenches of weekly assignments, it slowly became difficult to maintain a tangible sense of community. But five weeks without it has exposed how continually present it really was. A week or two ago, an acquaintance of mine shared a video he edited to Facebook. This video was comprised simply of candid portrait photos from the semester and was underscored by another friend’s original music. As I saw these faces fade in an out, I was reminded of what makes the Bryan community unique—the people. Several hundred special people with their unique strengths and weaknesses, all thrown together at a critical juncture in their lives, in a place where God is allowed to work. That is Bryan College.
I didn’t personally know all the people in the video. But I did know all their faces. And I miss seeing those faces, whether walking to chapel, crossing the Triangle, working in the library, or taking a meal in the dining hall. I miss early morning greetings from the maintenance staff, students and professors interacting over lunch, and every spontaneous discussion that threw off your schedule but you couldn’t be upset about. Even for an introvert, those things helped keep me going.
The vitality of Bryan’s community has been evident in the efforts by the faculty and administration to express their care for the students. Many professors have offered significant flexibility regarding due dates and even class meeting time. The administration has demonstrated prayerful wisdom in its leadership decisions during this time, accompanied by admirable cooperation with student leadership and the senior class regarding the outworking of commencement. As for the students—despite the difficulties, we are managing. We know that this too shall pass.
To all the alumni and friends of the college: the state of the Bryan community is strong. Lock-down has come with some blessings in disguise (God is always working), but I believe I can speak for my class when I say we would all prefer to fulfill our time in that community personally. If the Bryan College community stays true to itself and its trust in the Almighty, it will emerge from this season even stronger. I am proud of my school, proud of my peers, and proud to soon be a graduate of this institution.
Bryan Knowles ’20
Student Body Vice President
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