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As Thanksgiving approaches, students at the University of Northwestern–St. Paul are learning to appreciate the little things while COVID-19 is still present.

Callie Fries, a sophomore public relations major, said, “Breathing fresh air after class is a luxury I hadn’t always appreciated. Masks do provide more warmth, now [that] winter is here. It’s kind of a bittersweet feeling.”

A couple months into the school year, it is still an adjustment going from Zoom classes to in-person classes other days. Connecting with others face-to-face has still been a challenge, but Fries has focused on the positives of the situation. She and many others are thankful to be present on campus this semester, and it makes the days in class more enjoyable.

“On the hard days, I just try to remember that things could be worse,” Fries says, “and I appreciate all that I have. I try not to focus on how things used to be, but on what great things I have now. We got out of the full-on lockdown so, really, we have a lot to be thankful for.”

Spencer Goodwin is a junior mechanical engineering major. When he was in high school, Goodwin had the opportunity to go to Hungary and Romania on a mission trip. He taught children and teens in Romani communities about God and shared His love for them.

“I am incredibly grateful for this life experience because it really opened up my eyes as to how fortunate I am…and how many things I took for granted. I feel I have had a more positive outlook toward life since that trip,” says Goodwin.

Goodwin is also very thankful for his great grandpa’s positive outlook. Goodwin says his great grandpa is one person he would thank for his influence on Goodwin’s life. His great grandpa was his best friend and his hunting partner when he was younger.

“Going to his house during the summer to fish and play around in nature is one of my favorite childhood memories. He had such a gentle and loving heart, and I always wanted to be like him in that way,” recalls Goodwin.

Rachel Rouse is a freshman elementary education major and music minor. She says, “COVID-19 has changed almost every aspect of our lives. The most prevalent theme for this year seems to be the fact that we have no idea what our future will look like…. Nothing is guaranteed to us. This has taught me to truly love each moment I am given, and to go out of my way to love and serve others.”

If Rouse could thank one person in her life, it would be her mom for being a strong, God-fearing and selfless woman. Her mom has devoted her life to teaching her children how to live a life of faith, honor and love.

“Her love for Christ has inspired and pushed me to pursue Him more,” Rouse says, smiling.