Within the first week of school I could already feel the difference.”
Arissa Vandeburgt, a second-year honours English major, is celebrating the life-giving community that she says has been revived this year at Redeemer. Despite efforts in 2020-21 to retain as much of the sense of community and relational learning as possible through offering dual delivery, a blend of in-person and remote delivery for each class, much of what makes Redeemer’s co-curricular and community life so unique took a pause during an academic year marked by pandemic lockdowns and restrictions.
But the 2021-22 year has seen a return to many of the activities, clubs and the other opportunities for spiritual and social connection that Redeemer is known for.
“The sense of community just feels a lot more real this year, and friendships and community life are being given a place inside of every student’s academic load again, which has been incredibly life-giving,” says Vandeburgt.
As a dormmate and friend, communication and community have made me see people at Redeemer with dignity, respect and love.
As the province continues to reopen, the university has seen more than 80 per cent of students studying in person. Coffee houses, club meetings, games nights, intramural and varsity sports and regular weekly chapel have returned with some modifications where needed to comply with provincial guidelines.
“Being able to integrate community life with school gives a reprieve from the schoolwork, and honestly, leaves me more invigorated when I come back to it,” says Vandeburgt. “It makes friendships more organic and easier, and makes my relationship with God more real because it can be shared more easily with others this year. My experience at Redeemer this year so far has been a lot richer than last year’s and I’m grateful for it.”
Feben Alemayehu, a social work major, has also experienced the benefits of this noticeable return to community, particularly through weekly chapel and conversations with her friends and dormmates. She says students and faculty have been willing to open up about the struggles they experienced over the past year and that the community on campus has been strengthened because of it.
“As a student, I have learned so much more about God’s Kingdom and why I am here at Redeemer to pursue the work he wants me to do. As a dormmate and friend, communication and community have made me see people at Redeemer with dignity, respect and love,” she says.
Leah Siebenga, a second-year honours social work student, experienced her first year during some of the most difficult pandemic restrictions and is grateful for the vibrancy of campus life she can take part in this year. “Because of the freedom that we have to interact with more people outside of the people we live with, the social opportunities are endless.” She hopes every member of the community gets to encounter the sense of community that she has.
Participating in the fullness of community life at Redeemer takes some effort, says Alemayehu. “Like everything else in life, it doesn’t just come to you. You have to pursue it, and once you do, the community here is worth it and irreplaceable. I would argue it is something you can’t replicate anywhere else.”