One semester of college done (well, almost). It is absolutely crazy that I have already spent almost four months as a college student, an ONLINE college student. I can’t even comprehend what just happened, and when I look back and try to think about the past four months, all I see is a whirlwind. However, if someone, anyone, were to ask me the classic question of ‘So, how was your first semester of college, Kristen?’ I would most likely respond by saying, ‘Good!’ Who knows if that is actually a true answer, or if it is just a habitual response; either way, the simple “good” does not come close to encapsulating the nuances of the first couple months as a college student.

Before I delve too deep into this reflection, I want to first recognize how unconventional and untraditional this year has been. I’m sure all of you readers are aware of the ups and downs of 2020, but from the perspective of a new college student, there are some unique circumstances. With high school abruptly ending in the middle of the spring semester, leaving the graduating class of 2020 without the usual celebratory events (graduation, prom, etc.), it really feels like high school meshed into college. There was no sense of closure. Especially because I was doing online school for the last two years of high school, and still doing college online, it really doesn’t feel too different. I still live at home with my parents. I still “go to school” in my pajama bottoms. And I still reheat my mom’s cooking for leftover lunches. I guess what I am trying to say is that although this is all a new experience, and a new season, this past year - particularly this last semester - has felt like I’m stuck in time, unable to move forward into my college independence.

With all that to say, the difficulties of online college does not negate the positives at all. I have truly enjoyed being a Biola student so far, even if I’m not living on campus and taking in-person classes. One of my favorite things about this semester were the several art classes I was able to take for my art degree! It continually blows my mind that I am able to take these classes and learn about art, and call that school. Even though it has only been a semester - one eighth of my college career - I have truly been enriched from my education; and that really is the best feeling, finding enjoyment in learning.

And of course, a highlight of this semester has been working for Biola on the Ambassador Team and being a Social Media Representative for you lovely prospective students! This job is truly an answer to prayer, and has provided me with not only income, but also community.

Something that I’m currently learning in my Bible class right now is the difference between happiness and joy, two words that are often used interchangeably. Because of everything that is going on in 2020, and has happened this past year, it is very easy to say that there is no reason to celebrate or to have joy. When in reality, our joy is rooted in the presence of God, and is not fleeting like happiness. Because God is with us always, especially in hard or difficult seasons, we have a reason to celebrate and have joy knowing that we are His beloved children. And this is not to say that we should always be happy - there were so many points in this semester where I felt deep frustration or sadness. But it’s how we move forward with those emotions after they’ve been processed and felt. All of this to say, this semester was not ideal, but there was so much growth and so many high points that makes 2020 worth remembering.

So if the word “good” means to you everything that I just word vomited, then yes, this first semester of college was indeed good. :+) I look forward to this new semester, and the new people I’ll get to meet, and the new things I will learn. And when I think back to my first semester, when I’m a senior in college, or even when I’ve grown old, I will remember the highs and lows of being a student amidst a pandemic, and think fondly of all the things I was able to learn and grow in. <3