When my parents and I picked up my belongings from my spring semester at Loyola University in Maryland, I could not help but notice the emptiness around campus. While I returned my key and walked across the quiet bridge, I recalled the liveliness of the campus when we all had returned from spring break in March.
Although I could not visit the bookstore or say hello to the dining hall staff, I asked my parents if I could stop by the quad, the center of Loyola’s Evergreen campus. My favorite spot on campus, I have many fond memories on the quad: eating lunch with friends on the Humanities building porch, leading campus tours, spring concerts, and the activities fair. As I took a moment to take it all in, the statue of St. Ignatius Loyola stood out to me. It reminded me of the passion for community that the early Jesuits created, inspired by Jesus and his disciples. I’ll always remember learning about care for the whole person, one of Loyola’s core values, at my orientation. Like the Jesuits, Loyola encourages every individual to grow in mind, body, and spirit. A rising junior, I still feel the power of community through the relationships that I have made with friends, professors, fellow campus ministry interns, and peers.
Even though the spring semester did not finish the way I expected, the Loyola community remained strong despite physical distance. Both students and staff came together in creative ways: virtual meetings with the career center, campus ministry gatherings on Zoom, livestream masses, and Facetimes with friends. I was especially touched by the tributes and virtual send-offs for the 2020 graduates. I was happy for them that the university recognized all their hard work and accomplishments. Despite disappointments, through the pandemic we have learned to adapt and to not take for granted the gift of human connection.
Without a doubt, campus life will be different in the fall through virtual classes, dining hall restrictions, event cancellations, and inability to travel from campus until Thanksgiving. But I am so thankful that I will safely return to my “home away from home” in August. I got to say goodbye to my friends in March knowing that I have two years left at Loyola. I know that I will come back to campus with a deeper appreciation for my family, friends, and the wonderful community that helps me find God in everyday situations.
Samantha Howath, a summer intern at RENEW International, is a rising junior at Loyola University Maryland where she studies Communications and Marketing. She is a lector for Campus Ministry. Samantha is also a marketer for Loyola’s chapter of Spoon University, a food blog, and a Greyhound Ambassador for Admissions.