Nearly two years after Montemorelos University (MU) — a Seventh-day Adventist institution located in northern Mexico — was forced to close its campus at the start of the pandemic, students and faculty gathered to officially open its spring semester. More than 1,800 students joined administrators, faculty and support staff to reflect on God’s goodness and pray together in front of the campus library in late January 2022.
Hundreds of students from 44 countries were in attendance, many of whom had already begun their first years of college virtually in 2020. For them, they were stepping onto a college campus for the first time.
“It’s been nearly two years and when we suspended in-person classes we thought it would be for like two or three weeks, then a month, and we did not imagine that [we] would get used to virtual reality and that we would forget how to be in person here,” Raquel Korniejczuk, MU academic vice president, said.
Korniejczuk invited the student body to take part in the opportunities and benefits that being in-person on the campus brings.
“During these years we have learned other skills which are and will be very useful to us, but we need to get back to experiencing the wonderful advantages of being like this, together, connecting our hearts among classmates, teachers, and students, in a healthy environment and with great hope,” Korniejczuk said.
For everyone enrolled at the university, hope lies beyond what the semester can offer, she said. “This reaches into a new world, where we will continue the bonds of learning throughout eternity.”
A large tree was planted during the celebratory event to commemorate the historic moment.
“Those from ancient times built an altar to celebrate God’s provisions, but we are planting a tree as a thankful offering to God because He allowed us to meet again,” Ismael Castillo, MU president, said. “This is a moment of gratitude.”
Three additional trees were planted to go along with the university’s reforestation project on campus this year, leaders said.
University officials said that many more are registered but due to visa, national vaccination requirements, or family issues, many students are not yet on campus. There are 2,132 students enrolled during the spring semester this year, university leaders reported. Months before the pandemic hit, in the fall of 2019, 2,809 students were enrolled at the university. In 2020, the average for the year was 2,537, and in 2021, it was 2,475.
Anti-bacterial gel stations have been installed throughout the campus, and the university will require students to wear face masks and practice social distancing. Procedures for temperature checks and regular sanitation of classrooms, offices, and meeting areas are also in place, as well as isolation measures in the event of a coronavirus outbreak.
The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-American Division news site.