As families arrived for Conrad Grebel University College’s move-in day over the Labour Day weekend, joy was visible in student eyes, even as masks hid their smiles. With waves of move-in times during the day, there was space to safely welcome students, assure parents, and get everyone settled in dorm rooms.
Students have modelled care for their community by diligently wearing masks inside all public places of Grebel and outside when distancing isn’t possible. A full gamut of orientation week activities helped to build relationships and cement friendships forged virtually last year, as some students met their friends in person for the first time.
For students who spent their first year of university isolated at home, moving into Grebel brought relief and excitement as they navigate living with a roommate and finding classrooms on the larger University of Waterloo campus.
Each year, students, staff and faculty participate in an act of community. This year, each person planted a clove of garlic at the front of the campus. “Like students at Grebel, garlic does not exist on its own—it is part of a bulb or community, and it is tough, resilient and sparks growth,” explained Mary Brubaker-Zehr, director of student services. “As students settle into school routines and with the future still uncertain on many fronts, this garlic is a sign of hope.”
While full normalcy hasn’t returned yet, professors were delighted to begin teaching some classes in person. Students have expressed gratitude to be able to take at least some of their courses in a physical classroom and to connect with peers face-to-face. Graduate students enjoyed meeting their colleagues and instructors in person. Last year’s cohort had only met each other on computer screens.
President Marcus Shantz greeted students with an inspiring speech at this year’s first community supper, shared in Grebel’s newly renovated dining room. “This big renovation that you are enjoying was mostly paid for by donations—from alumni and other friends of the college,” he said. “These people all believe in you, and they believe that your coming here makes a difference for the better. They believe that it’s good for computer scientists to have breakfast with history students and that engineers should have the chance to sing in a choir. They want you to learn values like community and social responsibility, peace and justice. We all hope you will change the world for the better.”