Something’s in the Air at PLNU

Pictured: Rachel Grace Heckle, photo courtesy of Heckle

Personal Perspective

The sand, the sun and the sea. Of course I wanted to move to San Diego, but I wanted to stay because of the people. Looking back, I chose to attend PLNU because I could feel something in the air on campus that I couldn’t place yet. 

As a literature and English education major, I was excited for the in-depth and personal program because of the small classes in the LJWLES department. But even if I was sure of the place, I was unsure of pretty much everything else: my major, my minor, my career path, my friendships and my extracurriculars. The list goes on. Because my choice was based on feeling, I was starting to question whether or not I rushed into my acceptance at PLNU. My high school experience emphasized the importance of academic achievement and encouraged my class to set long-term goals early on. Naturally, anxiety about “the right choice” spun around my head, and it all got worse when the pandemic struck in the middle of my freshman year.

Now, quarantine was by no means enjoyable, but I benefited more than most, being an introvert who managed to find some comfort in the distance of a screen and the anonymity of a mask. But this is the period when I felt the enchantment of PLNU again. 

We all complained one way or another about the education we received during quarantine, but regardless, I will always be grateful for the support PLNU provided during this time. Classes provided much needed structure and stability among chaos. Professors shared in our struggle, and I was lucky enough to connect with new friends who, to this day, will always have my back. Despite all the conflict and struggle happening over the pandemic and beyond, I saw my professor’s efforts to connect.

During quarantine, I slowly discovered that the magic I saw in the sun, the sand and the sea actually came from the people I encountered. People who attend PLNU seem to shine because of the amazing community that prioritizes each other over anything else. I felt stronger knowing the support I had through this school, which was an experience that I personally lacked early on.

Reflecting back on moments from my time at PLNU, I now understand the importance and beauty of community. Community that can be found all over campus from the classes to the cafeteria to the outreach programs. Because of the emphasis on academia in my past, the support system I have found has challenged me to go beyond what I thought I deserved or was capable of. 

For example, I had never seriously considered investing my time into my creative writing before college; however, I received a lot of encouragement from peers I had only talked to in class, from professors who I did not have a class with and people all across campus. On a whim, I submitted and I could not be happier that I did because of the relationships I forged during the process of writing, turning to mentos for editing and finally celebrating the publication alongside everyone that worked so hard to make something special. This was real magic.

Moreover, my humanities program has established and refined invaluable skills that I use both personally and professionally. Because our education at PLNU is centered around community, we are able to come to understand each other and engage in civil discourse. Literature draws attention to tricky issues to navigate, and my program has taught me how to address these issues within myself and then with others in the most productive way possible. 

Since we live in a polarized society, the ability to communicate with others that may have a different perspective than yourself. Over my years, I have seen this many times in action on campus. After returning to campus and lasting through the hybrid program, the Bresee Collective—anonymous and offensive manifesto—hit PLNU shelves. Suddenly, this community seemed to be hiding some hostility underneath the surface. Even so, I saw those around me letting their voices be heard, writing creatively in response, and publishing informative articles calling for discussion.

In more recent news, PLNU is experiencing yet another tense period with the protest in support of LGBTQIA+ and the developing situation with Mark Maddix. Again, we find ourselves in chaos, and while the future is unclear, I find comfort in the ability to have a conversation with my friends, my classmates, and my professors about the uncertainty.

Turning to the future, I confess that there is more uncertainty. Nothing has yet called my name as PLNU did for me all those years ago, and my community at PLNU reassures me that I will be alright. I have grown into a confident and independent woman who is ready to explore the world beyond Point Loma, and most importantly, the danger of failure no longer bothers me. I know I have an army to help pick me back up.

For now, I am going to say good-bye to the sun, the sand, the sea and the people, but I will carry everyone with me on my journey back to my hometown, abroad to Europe and Asia, and hopefully to graduate school internationally. But trust that I will return for a visit. After all, four years later I still cannot deny that view.

Written By: Rachel Grace Heckle