Reflecting on Four Years at PLNU: Beauty Surpassing Tribulation

The PLNU soccer field. Photo courtesy of Andrew Hansen.

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Andrew Hansen is a graduating senior Literature-English Education major at PLNU and the sports editor of The Point. 

When I reflect on my four years at Point Loma Nazarene University, I think about a doctor. Although several professors with a doctorate influenced me at PLNU, I am thinking of a doctor in a hospital with a white coat. I did not spend time in the hospital in the past four years and have no plans to pursue medical school, so it might be strange that a doctor comes to mind. In fact, I am not even thinking of a real doctor because Dr. Katowski only exists in the show This is Us. (This is not paid advertising for the show, but I cannot recommend it highly enough.) 

Dr. Katowski, or Dr. K, comes to mind because of one quote he says as he consoles a grieving family.

“The trick is not trying to keep the joys and tragedies apart, but you have to let them cozy up to one another, to coexist” Dr. K said. “If you can do that, if you can manage to forge ahead with that joy and heartache mixed up inside of you, never knowing which is going to get the upper hand, then life has a way of shaking out to be more beautiful than tragic.”

Joy, heartache, tragic and beautiful are all words that could summarize my time at PLNU, yet beautiful stands out the most. 

The joys are easy to pick out from my first two-and-a-half years. I met a hall of great guys, a dorm full of friends and a campus full of incredible people. I think about all the times in Klassen Hall messing around in the hallways at all hours of the night, especially our spontaneous games of hall tennis that were usually put to rest when the hall below us complained about the yelling and thundering footsteps at midnight. I love the ways we connected with our peers through Alpha groups, playing ping pong in the lounge, intramurals and dinners at the Caf when 20 of us would take over an entire section. I loved the late-night food runs, beach days and professors who decided to have class at a Padres game or at Liberty Public Market, so we could talk about literature and life over great food.

The people I met freshman year are the people I have lived with and done life with ever since. I am sad for students who did not get a traditional college experience their first year or two at PLNU — or anywhere — because those years were transformative for me and connected me with wonderful people.

The heartaches are easy to remember because many of them are fresher. Uncertainty loomed over much of my senior year, and this final year has been anticlimactic as I have not had a class on campus for more than 15 months.

However, the final year was not the only difficult time in college. There were many times that were tough. It’s not always popular to talk about the hard aspects of life, especially at a school like PLNU where everything looks great on the surface. In reality, it is great, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t difficulties and challenges. There were times I felt lonely, missed home or felt overwhelmed trying to balance school and extracurriculars.

Jesus never promised life would be easier for Christians, and the difficulties and sorrows strengthened my faith and reminded me to keep my hope in God, the one who never fails and continues to work amid the struggle. Moreover, I was blessed to be surrounded by like-minded people of faith who cared about me and helped me grow in my faith.

Even this year, I remember incredible conversations I had (via Zoom) with professors like Michael McKinney and James Wicks which lasted hours and reminded me how lucky I am to attend PLNU and build relationships with students and professors who want to see you grow in all aspects of life.

You can get bogged down in the sorrows, but you must also remember the joys. Part of what is so sad about not being on campus is feeling removed from the PLNU community and not running into people on Caf Lane or spontaneously stopping by a professor’s office to talk about school, sports, faith and life. Although these conversations can happen on Zoom, you miss something without face-to-face interaction, just as you miss something when you cannot meet in person for class.

Ultimately, I am grateful for my four years at PLNU, and I am grateful for the people that made my experience so amazing, even though it was nothing like what I imagined four years ago. My time at PLNU was beautiful, not only because of the ocean views but also because I learned how to better love and serve God and others — not despite the challenges, but because of them.

By: Andrew Hansen