A Unique Senior Year Experience: Alexine Siwy

by Caroline Morris (B.A. English '22)

Alexine Siwy

Alexine Siwy is a third year Senior with a Double Major in Theology and Religious Studies and English. Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, Alexine has had her college experience turned upside down as she has had to transfer universities while being entirely online. She is now taking her first classes at Catholic University online from her hometown in Gurnee, Illinois, without the benefit of in-person classes that most first-years are receiving. In this interview, Alexine talks about her unique experience transferring online during a pandemic, joining the Catholic University as an English major, and how she wants to use her degree after she graduates.


What university did you attend before transferring to Catholic and why did you end up transferring?
Before enrolling at Catholic University, I attended Holy Family College.

I transferred because the school was actually shut down! CUA was always a dream school in that it was just financially out of reach, but with Holy Family shutting down, CUA really worked with me to be able to get me enrolled at my dream university.

You’ve had an unprecedented experience in college, clearly. What has it been like to transfer to a new university as a senior while being entirely online?
I didn’t expect to be as nervous in my classes as I actually was. At my old school, I couldn’t fathom not participating constantly, throughout the whole class, but I found myself holding back a bit more. I didn’t realize that or identify it at first, but I discovered I was staying quiet because I didn’t know anyone.

It has been the greatest joy to go from being a stranger and not knowing anyone to being able to recognize someone’s voice without looking or message someone through the Zoom chat. I’ve gotten to know their personalities, too. I’ve gone from being complete strangers to really good friends with people. I’ll have conversations now about “How tall are you?” and they think I’m five four and I'm totally not. Being online has created a unique opportunity to find out real life stuff about people in such a strange, removed way.

I also do want to say that my professors have been incredibly accommodating and compassionate. I’ve been in awe of my professors who have constantly met me where I’m at. They’re so good, I don’t understand. Also, Dr. Baker is the sweetest man, I just want to give him a hug!

How does the English department at CUA compare to that of your previous university?
There were only five English Majors at my old university, so it was a very intimate community. Because of that, though, there weren't a lot of opportunities to share thoughts with a wider variety of people, and you were always in the same classes with the same people. So it was good for community in a certain sense, but I was not exposed to as many personalities and perspectives as I am here at Catholic.

I only had three different English professors throughout my time at my previous college. There were four total professors in the department; there was one I didn’t have, and primarily I just had two regularly. I had a good relationship with them, but at CUA I’ve really been exposed to a lot of different interests and areas of English that I haven’t been able to explore because of the expertise of different professors.

What has been your favorite English class you’ve taken so far?
That’s hard! If I have to choose one, it has to be my senior seminar class. We’re studying Baldwin and having only read different excerpts from Baldwin’s works, being able to hone in and read a majority if not all of his works has been an experience I’ve never really had with an author, to be able to grapple with all that they’ve written. It’s been such a unique experience to not just scratch the surface with the themes and style, but to be able to really dig deep and continue to go back to his works and recognize the correlation. It has been so unique and fruitful.

How has Catholic and the English department helped with your transition?
Every student that I’ve encountered and each professor has been incredibly helpful. They have all willed my good in my wholeness as a person, not just in my academic success. From Catholic offering an agreement to Holy Family so I could transfer to every professor just interacting with me concerning my individual assignments, they’ve all really desired for me to succeed and grow. I have nothing but praise, it’s so good

How do you see your two majors of Theology and Religious Studies and English fitting together, and how would you like to utilize both once you have graduated?
I’ve thought about this a lot. They work together really well in that I consider Theology to be my primary major. But, studying literature has allowed me to grapple with large issues and topics considering gender, the human person, and the human experience. Being able to explore people’s motives and emotions, as well as issues of the world in these microcosms of the human experience, in some way in some lens, allows me to better understand the human person better. This allows me to better understand God who the human reflects. In turn, understanding God helps me to understand man.

In all that, in continuing to grow and learn, I just really want to work with people and walk with them toward God. I want to journey with people in their hardships, specifically with young adults but also potentially with larger ministries in communicating the Gospel. Whether that be writing the resources, going and communicating the mission more verbally, one on one or in groups, that is what I want to do with my two majors.

What have been a few of the highlights of your experience since joining Catholic?
I have to say, asking Dr. Baker if he’s related to Ryan Seacrest!

Also, my philosophy teacher and I have some mutual friends. Her family is from the same area I’m from, so we’ve really bonded over that and she’s been a great guide.

Both Dr. Gregory and Dr. Pecknold have literally just said call me and we can talk about anything you want to talk about at all from class. They have offered to let me call if I need something outside of class to make up for any gaps in knowledge. I’ve met with pretty much every professor one on one about what I need, and they’ve all been very loving.

Lastly, a highlight has been getting to meet students in my class over facetime (particularly the author of this piece)!

Photo credit: Alexine Siwy