The year of 2020 has been a challenging time for everybody in different ways. As a senior at Hillsdale College, most of this semester has been very frustrating, but it’s also given me time to reflect upon what I’ve learned from being a student here.
From these reflections, I cannot help but be grateful.
Three weeks ago, I was sitting in isolation due to contact tracing. I’ll never forget how upset I was when my housemate texted me and told me she had tested positive for COVID-19, and she was putting me on her list.
I was devastated.
While typing emails to all of my professors and employers, I felt like something I loved so much had been ripped out of my hands. I loved being in class and going to my on-campus jobs. I loved going to Collegian assignment meetings and interviewing students for stories in person.
As I prepared for my two weeks in isolation, I knew that all of those things that I loved would be missing.
I didn’t want to sit at home and watch lectures from a classmate’s iPhone or listen to a lecture from class two days later. I wanted to go to class and engage in discussion. I wanted to go to work and celebrate the end of the semester with my coworkers.
In my first couple of days in isolation, I was bitter and angry.
After a couple of days, however, my perspective changed.
I was still upset about missing all of the in-person activities on campus, but I realized in a new way how blessed I was to be attending Hillsdale.
I hear students and faculty say, “Hillsdale is a special place” at least once a week. And there are countless good reasons to make this claim.
For me, Hillsdale is a special place because of its commitment to the mission. As a senior, I’ve come to learn that few places have a mission and stand by it in unprecedented circumstances.
The first sentence of the college’s mission states, “Hillsdale College is an independent institution of higher learning founded in 1844 by men and women ‘grateful to God for the inestimable blessings’ resulting from civil and religious liberty and ‘believing that the diffusion of learning is essential to the perpetuity of these blessings.’”
The remaining parts of the mission explain the college’s commitment to its students and society as “a nonsectarian Christian institution,” but I want to focus on the first sentence of the mission.
The men and women who founded this college 176 years ago were “grateful.” I don’t know all of the obstacles they faced in 1844, but I can imagine that founding a college is not for the faint of heart.
Founding a college is difficult, yes, but I would argue that maintaining a college in a way in which it embodies and defends its founding ideas is a more daunting task.
Hillsdale College remains true to its founding principles.
Its students and faculty are living proof of this fact.
Throughout 2020, the students and faculty at Hillsdale College have acted faithfully to the mission by embodying this opening sentence.
I became filled with gratitude while in isolation because of the outpouring of love and concern I received from classmates, professors, and employers. People in each one of these categories sacrificed bits of their day to help me succeed and learn while I could not be on campus.
Yes, I was not in class or at work, but I had friends who killed their phone batteries so that I could listen to lectures in real time. I had friends who spent hours figuring out how to send me recorded lectures in the middle of their busy weeks. My professors ensured that I had everything I needed to keep up with class while I was in isolation. Many professors reached out to me while I was in isolation just to see how I was doing.
I don’t know what being in isolation is like at other colleges. But I doubt any other college has students and faculty who are as committed as the community at Hillsdale to helping all students succeed regardless of the curveballs 2020 throws our way.
I am grateful for all of the wonderful knowledge I have gathered during the past 3.5 years here at Hillsdale. But more importantly, I am immensely grateful for the beautiful relationships I have formed with the students and faculty.
This year has put everyone to a great test. In many ways, 2020 has asked each of us to reevaluate what matters most to us.
For the community at Hillsdale College, it’s unmistakably clear that the education of its students to be good human beings remains the most important aspect of this institution.
I’m grateful to everyone in the Hillsdale community for meeting the challenges of 2020, and I would ask everyone to reflect upon the ways this community has helped them grow in the middle of one of America’s most turbulent times.
Julia Mullins is a senior studying politics.