It’s still a vivid memory in my head: the month of May 2020, when the world was still very unsure of what COVID-19 was and I was equally unsure of my college plans for the upcoming year.

I knew I wanted to transfer somewhere, but that was about it. I doubted that it was even a possibility, given that as a high school senior I finished my college applications in November as did most others. 

One night, I opened my laptop and looked up, simply, “colleges in the U.S.,” knowing I’d be bombarded with endless search results. As I am from San Diego, I thought it would be preferable to stay West, and eventually after some searching I found Gonzaga.

It was a school I knew little of, but it got me thinking about various aspects about GU and Spokane. I remember being struck by the smaller student body, as well as the beautiful campus. 

Clearly, something about it was speaking to me, and eventually, I reached the conclusion that I couldn’t find any other school with the same sort of appeal. Looking on GU’s website, I was pleasantly surprised to see that transfer applications were still open for another week. 

I finished my application within a day, and within a couple weeks I was accepted. I gave it a few days to be completely sure it was the right choice, but I never doubted that it was. One night, I broke the news of the switch on my social media, to the shock of my family and many lifelong friends.

Soon enough, it was August and time for me to physically experience GU for the first time ever. During orientation, I thought everything felt just right here. It was all the fantastic things the Internet had shown me, but better.

Nonetheless, I knew it wasn’t going to be a typical year. I could only see the top half of anyone’s face as everyone was masked, and a plethora of clubs and activities were going to be closed for the time being. But, this didn’t change my ambition to make the most of my experience. 

Within a couple weeks of first semester, I saw a sign in my English class about writing for the Bulletin. I thought this would be a great opportunity to meet new people and become more familiar with my new home, so I became a staff writer.

Originally I wrote a few opinion pieces about topics of personal interest, but eventually started covering events on campus. This has not only given me a good number of new Facebook (and real-life) friends and Instagram followers, but also a stronger yet feeling that I belong here on the GU campus.

For exercise, I began walking the trail along the Spokane River into downtown during my free time. The calming scenes of nature and lack of hustle-and-bustle mentality found while being off campus have kept me focused on the greater goal and no doubt strengthened my performance on it. 

It wasn’t long before I saw snow for the first time ever. I could hardly believe my eyes, and spent almost five hours dancing around outside that day due to unstoppable feelings of pure excitement.

While I still love being in a place with four seasons, the return of the snow after a hiatus of a few weeks also showed me how clumsy I am. A few trips and falls here and there may have resulted in “cloudy-with-a chance-of-flying-Starbucks-and-stained-clothes.”

On the night of November 3, while presidential election results loomed, I wandered around campus looking for a place to watch. To my luck, I randomly went to Jepson, took a right turn, and going into the first room I saw, encountered a couple dozen kids screaming and clapping as the results of the several critical battleground states came in.

As someone majoring in history and political science, I sure as hell wasn’t about to miss an election as consequential as that one.

As time went on, I eventually found a plethora of study spots on campus, including The John J. Hemmingson Center, the library and College Hall. Perhaps the first is my favorite, as the building structure is quite aesthetic and I have always thought the forty-two different national flags displayed inside near the front are incredibly neat.

But, no piece would be complete without a mention of March Madness. I had zero clue that GU was even so well-known for its basketball teams before coming here, but when the season rolled around it captured my undivided attention.

I was never nervous until the game against UCLA, with its over twenty lead switches and neither side ever being up by more than seven points throughout. I could hardly believe my eyes as Jalen Suggs’ legendary buzzer-beater happened in real time. 

The unforgettable shot was a defining moment of GU’s season—one that proved, although Baylor may have ultimately earned the championship, our skills are not to be doubted and we will keep coming back with the same hustle. 

While having four classes and a lab fully over Zoom this year was not terribly exciting, I have come to embrace the change as I understand nobody is doing it out of choice. In any event, the smaller classes have still given me a chance to meet new people and get to know them (and my professors) in greater depth than any lecture hall packed with several hundred students could dream to offer. 

Come this fall, I am excited to meet more people in a safe manner, and hopefully be able to see their entire face. I’ll also be sure to catch a few live basketball games.

It is now spring, with birds chirping and students laying and sitting down in the warm sun in several different spots on campus. I have repeatedly thought to myself: If I have enjoyed myself at GU as much as I have during a pandemic year, I can only imagine how at-home I’ll feel whenever the world achieves a greater sense of normalcy.

Alex Bhayani is a staff writer. 

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