A Student's Online Experience
In March 2020, Juliana Bonilla (B.S. ’21) flew home to Colombia the day before its borders shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She returned home with every hope that she would be back on campus at Cornerstone University in the fall. But as the pandemic progressed, her country did not reopen its borders.
“I applied twice to leave the country but got denied,” Bonilla recalled. She wanted more than anything to be on campus for her senior year and see her friends for the first time in months. But due to the reality of the pandemic, she couldn’t. She faced the decision of either having to take a semester off or completing the semester online from thousands of miles away.
“I prayed about it and decided to try learning online,” Bonilla said. “And from day one, my professors were ready to help.”
Bonilla remembered how her professors constantly prayed for her, emailed her to check in and asked if she needed any additional help. They did everything possible to make sure Bonilla was cared for even from thousands of miles away, including arranging the classroom so she could see everyone and feel involved even though she was the only student learning remotely.
Throughout the semester, Bonilla felt infinitely supported by both her professors and her friends. Once, during a scavenger hunt for a class project, her friends “carried her” through the university’s De Witt Center for Science and Technology using FaceTime on their phones. In Bonilla’s experience, students, faculty and staff at Cornerstone went above and beyond to make sure she felt as connected as possible.
“My academic adviser knew I wouldn’t be back in the states. He scheduled regular meetings with me to make sure I was doing alright mentally and spiritually,” Bonilla said.
She was overjoyed when she was able to return to campus in January 2021, after almost a year of not seeing her friends and professors in person. Walking into Crawford Hall again, she instantly thought of all the memories she’d made there over the years and was excited to make more. Despite an unexpected fall semester, Bonilla returned to campus prepared to finish strong and jump back into in-person learning.
Despite not being able to complete her full senior year on campus, Bonilla found other reasons to be thankful for extra time at home. She spent more time with her family in Colombia, and the time away from campus made her even more thankful for the home she had at Cornerstone.
“I could see how God showed me a purpose in all of that,” Bonilla said. “I learned how to be positive in negative situations.”
Juliana Bonilla is from Bogotá, Columbia. She is a senior studying pre-med at Cornerstone. After graduation, Bonilla plans to spend the summer in Philadelphia, Pa., to work at a hospital in a small vulnerable community and afterward pursue more work in medical missions.
Audrey Wierenga (B.A. ’18) is the copywriter for Cornerstone’s Marketing & Communications Office. She graduated from Cornerstone in 2018 with a degree in broadcast communication. Audrey also serves on the Young Alumni Council.
In her spare time, Audrey enjoys working on her own full-length work of fiction, co-hosting a podcast about the Academy Awards and participating in local theatre productions.