The Student Perspective

student perspectives

The Student Perspective

Finding Community When Living and Working Off-Campus / Tanys Lowry

Students often find their “tribe” in college by attending on-campus events, living on-campus with other students, and being entrenched in on-campus life all day, every day. However, as Grand Valley State University grows, there are more and more students who live off campus and commute to class by car, by public transport, or even by foot if they live within walking distance of campus. Also, it is common for college students to work during the academic year. So, a question that students who live and work off campus might ask is, “How do I find my people?"

Option One:  Utilize Similarities

The first thing I would suggest is to forge bonds with other people in your major. Sharing a major already gives you something in common with strangers who, with a bit of effort, can become your friends. Ask your classmates if they want to have a study session with you, whether that’s in person, over Zoom, or on a Discord voice chat where you’re all studying the same things. One of my closest friends was in at least four of my courses for my major. We studied together for big exams and stayed up way too late together while trying to finish the same assignment. But then we started going to events together and even had movie nights at my apartment.  The Classics major is perfect for this, as a small tight-knit group of people who are passionate about their work.

Option Two: Expand Your Horizons

It can be difficult to get out of your comfort zone. But as you explore the things you have in common with people, I would also suggest going to events you may not usually consider attending. I went to the GVSU Spring Concert at the Fieldhouse by myself one year because I decided I wanted to see live music, even though I did not know the band, All Time Low.  They had a great performance, and I found a new band to enjoy, but the real highlight was the people I met at the concert. I ended up standing next to a young woman who became one of my dearest friends for a few precious years, and I never would have met her if I had not decided to go see a band I did not know.

Option Three: Remote Access

I know it might seem odd to think about, but one silver lining to come out of living through the Covid-19 pandemic is the increased accessibility to events. Lately, a common practice is having online accessibility, whether the event itself is online, or the event is being streamed live, like the Fall 2022 Convocation. Either way, this makes it much easier for students, especially off campus students, to attend events. As someone who works part time during the semester, I have been able to attend different lectures or readings on topics I was interested in with more regularity because there was online access. For those events, I did not have to stress about being late or feel bummed about missing an event because I did not have enough time to get from my job to the event before it was over.

Don’t Give Up!

Meeting new people and making new friends takes a more concerted effort when you do not live on campus, and it can be daunting to walk up to someone and start chatting. But sometimes, you can find people who just fit you so well it feels as easy as breathing. I found a friend like that my sophomore year, and two years later she officiated my wedding. Even if it may not seem like it at first, it is possible to find a place where you belong in one of GVSU’s many communities.

Classics Activities and Communities /Tanys Lowry

The Classics Department sponsors multiple events, student organizations, and academic pursuits associated with classical studies. I would highly recommend attending Classics Department events around campus, including our interdisciplinary events! It’s always interesting to see how other departments interact with the same topics and give their own unique perspective on these events.  Also, by interacting with fellow majors and professors outside of the classroom you can learn more about the different academic and career opportunities that are open to you as a Classics Major.

Student Organizations

At Grand Valley State University, there are more than 400 different student organizations. There is something for everyone, whether you are interested in sports, academics, activism, or any number of things!

Students interested in classical studies can join Eta Sigma Phi Honorary Society for Classical Studies. GVSU is home to the Iota Sigma chapter of the national organization. This is an honorary society for students to develop their interests in the study of Classics and to promote friendship between members. They are happy to answer any questions. For more information about the society, including eligibility, please visit their page on LakerLink.

Study Abroad

Study abroad programs vary depending on how long you want to be abroad (a semester, a year), and which degree and emphasis you’re pursuing. When it comes to study abroad for Classics, we’re very lucky to have several options! For students interested in study abroad, there are many scholarship options to help pay for these educational experiences, with options available through Grand Valley State University as well as from sources external to the university. Classics study abroad programs focus on everything from art history and archeology to history and ancient languages. Most of the programs available to Classics majors are in Greece or Italy. Imagine what it would be like to read your textbooks while sitting at the Parthenon in Athens or discuss the discrepancies between representations of Ancient Rome in film and what you can physically see in Italy!

Studying abroad doesn’t just help students appreciate the depth and breadth of ancient cultures; it also helps to build skills such as cross-cultural communication and empathy. I had a brief discussion with one of our professors, Dr. Benjamin Howland, about his experience studying abroad when he was a student.  Dr. Howland told me that study abroad challenged his worldview and broadened his perspective on ancient history and current culture and helped him become more comfortable with travel. Professor Howland said that “…to physically experience these ancient sites, and to touch artifacts and have that personal experience really fueled the passion [I] already had for the Classics.”


Attending Classics Department and interdepartmental events is one of my favorite things to do as a student. It’s a fantastic way to engage with your experience and knowledge differently from how you do in the classroom.

One of the biggest events for the Classics Department is HOMERATHON. HOMERATHON is a two-day event that occurs every two years.  Professors, university administrators, students, and scholars in residence come together to read Homer’s works and discuss their influence. 2022 was the 8th iteration of this event, and we read the Iliad along with selections from modern day adaptations and other ancient works such as the Aeneid. Every time we host this event, we explore the connections between Homeric epic and contemporary society. This year, our overarching theme was the Multiverse Saga, like that of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We had many professors read aloud in different languages for different passages: Ancient Greek, Latin, German, and French! Not only was I lucky enough to read a passage aloud for my peers and professors, but I got to participate in wonderful discussions about how different recreations and interpretations of ancient works, specifically the Iliad, can change or influence the traditional story. My favorite of these discussions focused on how the presentation of Achilles’ grief in Madeline Miller’s work The Song of Achilles differs from and alters our perception of Achilles when compared to how his grief is depicted in the Iliad.

HOMERATHON matters greatly to our department and our university. By sharing these stories and reading them in different languages, we’re promoting awareness and keeping these pieces of art alive. They were meant to be read and performed aloud to an audience, and by continuing that tradition into the present and future, we’re part of a chain going back thousands of years. This event also brings students of all ages and majors together to learn more about the Classics and can inspire new students to take a Classics course. As a Classics major myself, I found the event very inspirational, and it made me so happy to talk about my passion and the knowledge I’ve learned while pursuing my degree. 

Paleo-Olympics Event

Another important event is our annual interdisciplinary event organized in conjunction with the Archeological Society: The Paleo-Olympics! During this event we play ancient games, such as Ancient Greek boardgames and ancient volleyball. This year, the Paleo-Olympics was hosted on the Mary Idema Pew Library’s North Lawn on September 16th. My favorite activity was using stamps in the shape of hieroglyphics to spell out my name. However, many of my classmates enjoyed spear throwing and shield making!

Topical Events and Visiting Alumni

Some of our favorite events are when we have alumni come back and share their wisdom with current students.  This year, one of our Classics alumna, Abigail DeHart, visited on October 13th and 14th to participate in two talks on our Robert C. Pew Grand Rapids Campus. On the 13th, Abigail and her co-panelists participated in an event called “Women & the Legal Profession,”  where they spoke about their educational and professional experiences as distinguished women practicing law. On October 14th, during the event “Does Free Speech Need Limits?,” Abigail participated in a debate about limitations to free speech .

All these events are a wonderful way to interact with professors outside of class, and a fantastic way to get to know your fellow majors. The best way to stay up to date on Classics Department events is to go to the main page and click on the section labelled Events!

Non-Traditional Student Challenges / Tanys Lowry

One of the biggest challenges I have faced as a non-traditional student is balancing work with my class schedule. My time is often split between work and classes, and there are some days when I cannot do much of anything besides take off my shoes when I get home before crawling in bed. Fortunately, I have been lucky to have supervisors who were, and are, very understanding and willing to work with my class schedule.

Another daunting obstacle for non-traditional students is feeling comfortable in a classroom setting. Sometimes we harbor fear in these settings:  fear that we won't excel, or fear that we won't be able to handle the pressure. These fears can make us hesitate to participate, or in some cases, overcompensate because we feel like we must go above and beyond to justify being here.

The best way to overcome challenges is to have an idea of what strategies work best for you, so I will share what strategies I have utilized over the years. While none of the options I suggest are meant to be “one size fits all,” I am suggesting them from my point of view as a non-traditional student.


Strategies for Non-Traditional Students

First, build relationships with your professors and your classmates! Attending group study sessions, going to office hours, and asking for clarification during class are some of the most helpful strategies for me. If there is a concept during lectures that I struggle to understand, I make sure to raise my hand and ask the professor to clarify or rephrase the information. If you are uncomfortable asking questions during class time, you can always ask during office hours too!

Studying with fellow students is helpful because they can teach you new study skills, and it is also a terrific way to bond. I have had many classmates bring their unique perspectives on subjects to help explain and understand the subject material. For example, I took a class focused on Roman Law and studied with a fellow student in that course repeatedly over the semester. When I was struggling to grasp certain concepts, he often rephrased the questions we were studying in a way that helped me see how he reached the answer he did. I have also picked up a lot of tricks for studying vocabulary and remembering definitions from the students in my language courses.

The consultants in Knowledge Market have been trained to help nontraditional students as well as traditional. They provide support over many diverse types of projects, and you can either drop in or schedule an appointment, in-person or virtually, to get help with a project and to help teach you skills to take with you to future courses.

Academic advisors are available to talk about plotting a path to graduate year-round. There are multiple programs focused on helping nontraditional students finish their degrees: Return to Learn, the Center for Adult and Continuing Studies, and the LEADS accelerated degree program, just to name a few.

I also recommend going to the Fred Meijer Center for Writing & Michigan Authors, especially if you have courses that involve writing research papers. During my third year at GVSU, for example, I was drafting a research paper about the Oracle of Delphi. At the time, this was the longest paper I had ever written, and I was running out of steam. My professor suggested I go to the Writing Center to get their perspective. After meeting with them for an hour I had added two pages to my paper by restructuring the layout and determining what I was oversimplifying and leaving out. Check out the Writing Center’s website for information about scheduling appointments and working with writing consultants!


Asking for Help

The strategy that I work to refine every day is asking for help. Many times, I could have gotten all the help I needed if I had tried to ask for it. Everyone on this campus – tutors, professors, library liaisons, every single member of this community – want students to succeed. While the challenges students face can be numerous and feel overwhelming, the most important thing to remember is that they can be overcome.

Page last modified November 21, 2022