Michaela Woodward – Staff Writer
Senior Isabela “Bela” Larsen came to Gustavus for the community and stayed for it, too.
“I knew a couple of people already going into my freshman year here on campus. That made me feel more secure, knowing that I had someone to rely on or ask questions or just to guide me,” Larsen said.
Looking back, one of the most positive experiences for Larsen at Gustavus happened before she was even on campus.
“What really solidified that I had made the greatest decision to come here was that Gustavus had us join a Facebook page. But then students didn’t fully stay on the Facebook page, and we added Snapchats and stuff like that, so we created a little group chat. From that I’ve met some of my friends that I’m still acquaintances with, or I have classes with, or I’m really close to, or are in my sorority; from that group chat, we got together. And it formed an even bigger group, just a population that I was able to lean on,” Larsen said.
On campus, Larsen has found community in on-campus organizations, including the Alpha Sigma Tau sorority. She joined last year when she was seeking connection with a different community.
“I just immediately clicked with the girls and it’s been really good,” Larsen said.
Fellow AST sister Senior Rachel Kegerreis sees Larsen as a role model for their sorority.
“Isabela Larsen is amazing. This recruitment season, I mentioned her throughout the whole time to the new members. She is someone that embodies gracefulness and kindness every day of their life. There have been countless times where my day has been made so much better just by coming in contact with her,” Kegerreis said.
Larsen has also been able to connect with other aspects of her identity through the Adoption Recognition Community.
“I feel like from [ARC] I kind of understood personal things about [myself], hearing from their stories and telling my own adoption story. It’s been good to actually connect with other adoptees,” Larsen said.
Not only has she formed strong relationships with her peers, but Larsen notes that the bonds she’s formed with faculty have been integral to her experience at Gustavus, especially as an English major.
“I think growing up the subject really just clicked for me. It was much easier to understand for me, personally, than trying to figure out chemical equations and mathematics and such. I’ve also found that I’ve bonded really well with my teachers and professors going through this whole entire experience as an English major so I feel like the community itself was really inviting and so why I wanted to stick with that,” Larsen said.
Currently, Larsen is working in an assistantship under Professor Nissa Parmar to gather resources and internship opportunities for English majors.
“[Larsen] radiates good vibes! She is also incredibly curious. She always enhances any class or trip,” Parmar said.
Larsen enjoys reading, writing short stories and poetry, playing video games, enjoying the changing seasons in Minnesota, and creating art like paintings and ceramics. She has translated her childhood love of films into a Film & Media studies minor.
In her time at Gustavus, she has found that making openness a priority has allowed her to form more meaningful connections, and she advises other students to embrace their most authentic selves.
“From freshman year to senior year, I noticed a huge change within me. Especially this year, I’ve definitely opened up. I’ve started to be more of myself in classes even along with my professors and so just putting yourself out there, for me, helped me to find meaningful relationships,” Larsen said.