Chapman, La Comunidad provide ‘homelike community’

When I first came to BGSU, I was scared.

Though I rarely showed it, I was often homesick and uncomfortable.

I kept wondering, “Would I find friends? Would I feel at home? Would I be happy?”

The answer to those questions: a big yes, thanks to Chapman Learning Community at Kohl Hall and La Comunidad.

The people you live with are an important factor in your life. We’ve heard countless times that those who surround us define us. So that made both a relevant part of my BGSU experience.

Let’s start with my first learning community. To be honest, I was not the most involved person in Chapman.

I was a typical member. I attended biweekly mandatory meetings, took part in a service learning class with Wood Lane and lived in Kohl Hall with other Chapman members.

Though I was certainly involved in many other things, Chapman was tremendously important for me. I loved knowing I belonged somewhere and had a place to call home.

Chapman gave me a place to go when things got tough, something that can certainly happen those first few months of college.

On my first day on campus, I remember getting a blue Chapman T-shirt. Like everyone else, I also got a BGSU T-shirt, but I remember the Chapman shirt indicating that I was a part of something smaller and more intimate.

In Chapman, people knew my name when I came back from meetings, work and classes. They were like my family away from home.

Sure, no matter where you live on campus, you will develop a similar homelike community in your residence hall.

But what makes learning communities different is the “learning” aspect.

In addition to having a solid group to fall back on, you also learn with that community.

Oftentimes, you take classes with people you live with. It was great to have the same composition homework as my roommate.

Students in Chapman were fairly serious about their schoolwork. Notice I used the word “fairly.” We still had movie nights, made food in the kitchen and played video games.

But there was a often a sense of academic priority, especially during midterms and finals. When people were studying, that was respected. That was important to me.

When I was a sophomore, I was selected to become a resident advisor. I study Spanish and telecommunications, so when I let Residence Life know that I was nearly fluent, I was placed in La Comunidad.

This time, I saw the benefits of a learning community at a different level. Sure, as a freshman, I was aware of the benefits of a learning community. But as a resident advisor, I was able to watch it happen from the outside.

I remember La Comunidad’s first meeting. Many students were shy and quiet, but our advisor Carmen Alvarez was careful to design the event to open people up and help students get to know one another.

As the days passed, I saw friendships rapidly form. Quickly, they developed that home-away-from-home feeling. Some students who came to me about homesickness seemed to feel at ease.

There were also students on the floor who weren’t part of La Comunidad. I noticed that some of them didn’t have the same experience as students in La Comunidad.

Don’t get me wrong, most of them were happy and also found friends.

But it seemed to be easier for La Comunidad, since they already belonged to a group on day one.

The majority of those students studied Spanish, so they generally spoke the language on the floor.

This was tremendously helpful for them to develop their language skills. A common learning objective like tackling Spanish also served as a great icebreaker at the beginning of the year.

As a senior, I often think about my experiences with Chapman and La Comunidad.

Now that I have (almost) successfully made it through my undergraduate career, my time in learning communities seems so important.

They spring-boarded me into a successful four years in college.

I met some incredible people who made me feel good about myself.

All too often, people drop out of school when times get tough. I believe both were key in my decision to stay at BGSU and receive a diploma.

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