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Reflecting on Life in Bergstrom 2020-21

By Brenna Cisler

The 2020-2021 academic year looked a little differently than usual, but life went on nonetheless and another generation of St. Norbert College Honors students walked the halls of our beloved Bergstrom Hall, making memories and building relationships to last a lifetime. I got the opportunity to talk with some of our very own first-year Honors Program students and let them reflect on their memories, experiences, insights, and advice.

Bergstrom Hall |

On recounting her favorite memory in Bergstrom this year, Cate Nelson ‘24 recounts that she “loved hearing my friends coming to bang on my door so we could make a Phil’s snack run, have a late-night study session, or play a spontaneous round of cards”. Along the same lines, Anna Claerbaut ‘24 says she enjoyed “playing Nerts and games with others on the second floor, talking late at night, and trips to Zesty’s and Bonafide with friends”. James Cullen ‘24 says that his favorite memory was playing “the Bergstrom Games every Friday evening,” which was a series of team sports and activities (such as volleyball, ultimate frisbee, and football) that students in Bergstrom got together and played every Friday evening. Cullen is credited for starting this group and getting it officially approved by the Honors Program to continue for next year so that it is an activity that is open to be enjoyed by all honors students!

The Bergstrom residents also reflected upon some of the obstacles that came with their first year of college. The most challenging aspects of adjusting to college life mostly pertained to learning how to manage schedules and knowing when to reach out for help when they needed it. Bethany Kreklow ‘24 expressed that she was greeted with the challenges of learning how to develop a good sleep schedule and Faith Mertzig ‘24 stated that she found difficulty in the learning curve of keeping track of where she needed to be and when. Nelson also expressed that, “it was a challenge learning not only how to take care of myself, on both an emotional and physical level, but also how to know when to reach out for help.” In the same way, Emily Mathias ‘24 found it challenging at first to reach out for academic help. She explained that she “felt too scared to ask for help the first semester at college, but definitely got better at it in the second semester, whether it was asking clarifying questions in class or generating ideas for essays, asking where to take my ideas”.

College is not just a time for learning about class subjects and absorbing what we read in books; it is also a time for learning about ourselves and the role we play in the world around us. When asked what he learned about himself during his first year of college, Cullen said that he learned that he is a very social person and likes to be around other people. Along the same lines, Claerbaut said that learned that she is more talkative and outgoing than she realized. Kreklow added that she found that she is capable of more than she realized (such as when she learned that she can write three essays the night before they are due!). Additionally, Mertzig commented that she used to be very scripted and follow lists unwaveringly, but has since learned to go with the flow more and be spontaneous with her day. “Don’t worry about the little things,” she advises, “and learn to live in the moment”.

Since this class just finished up their first complete year of college at St. Norbert College, it seemed only natural to ask what advice they have for the incoming class. True to the work ethic of honors students and the spirit of communio, this class had a lot of wonderful and meaningful advice for the incoming class. Cullen advised, “Don’t be afraid to be social. Don’t shy away from people you don’t know, instead try reaching out to them. Who knows, they might become one of your closest friends”. Nelson kindly chimed in with, “Absolutely. Keep reaching out to others, both inside Bergstrom and out. I’m certain you’ll find some great people, but don’t be afraid to keep widening your circle. And don’t be afraid of trying new things. Even if you’re not sporty, join a game of sand volleyball. Take some friends to try that gelato place you’ve never been to. Maybe you’re not sure you’re going to like Twilight but hey, why not watch it with your floormates? Just showing up can lead to some really fantastic memories”. Claerbaut also advised that, “It’s important to study, but it’s also important to hang out with friends and be outgoing and meet new people. Take it one day at a time, don’t look at all your assignments right away, know and appreciate your professors, and enjoy your dinners at the caf with your friends!”. Mathias thoughtfully added, “Don’t be afraid to make friends! Also don’t be afraid if you don’t have friends right away! My friend group started out small and kept on widening as the school year progressed. Becoming friends with other people (inside and outside of the Bergstrom) can be so much fun, even when you don’t expect it to be. I would also advise incoming freshmen to utilize the lounges in Bergstrom!! It makes for an area where so much can happen, whether it is playing card games on the weekends, or painting nails and playing scrabble at wee hours of the morning, or even having movie nights with friends and popcorn. Being in the lounge allows you to have a large area to have fun, while also allowing others on the floor to join in the fun!”.

When I asked what this group of honors students would miss the most about their time in Bergstrom Hall, the general consensus could be summed up in one word: community. “The thing I will miss most about living in Bergstrom is the community atmosphere. My floor became one big family and we ended up spending lots of time together,” Cullen recounted. Nelson added, “Yep— the community is what I’ll miss most, having so many friends a couple doors down or a few flights away.” Claerbaut included that she’ll miss the community environment, the layout of Bergstrom, having access to everyone in the lounge, and even getting to brush her teeth next to friends.

On a final note, I asked the 2020-2021 freshman honors student class what they would say to someone who is on the fence about joining or applying to the Honors Program and if the Program was what they thought it would be like. Nelson enthusiastically replied, “Definitely apply! It’s a very community-oriented, supportive environment–and you are definitely ‘smart’ enough. We are here to talk through our philosophy essays together and give you a sparknotes-style summary at breakfast if you didn’t finish the chapter. We’re a team, and not just when we’re playing ultimate frisbee. We’re all moving through this first-year journey together.” Mathias, also without hesitation, replied, “Apply to the Honors Program!! The community that you make is amazing. Everyone is very supportive and fun. Even though it may seem like a super studious group, where everyone is smarter than you, do not worry. You are smart too!! (and if you’re a procrastinator like me, don’t worry, there’s still procrastinators in the Honors Program). Even if you decide not to do it, it is worth it to apply and have the opportunity to join!!” Mertzig added that joining the Honors Program is incredibly “helpful for beginning your college experience and helps you make friends and meet people who are like you”. Cullen also added, “Don’t be afraid of joining the Honors Program. Some people think it means classes will be harder and more work, but this is not true. The Honors Program provides you with a group of similarly minded students and also gives you the opportunity to make long-lasting friendships. This program is not what I thought it would be. I thought it would be a bunch of ‘nerdy’ students who were way smarter than me spending their whole time studying. This wasn’t true, and I am very grateful that I decided to join the Honors Program”.

This academic year, like every year, had its own set of challenges, triumphs, experiences, friendships, memories, and moments of self-reflection. This class of honors students was kind enough to share their experiences and what they have learned, both about the Honors Program and themselves, the past two semesters. We wish them the absolute best as they continue their exciting college journeys and look forward to enthusiastically welcoming the next generation of students into the St. Norbert College Honors Program!

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