Collegiate Fellow Ellen Kneeskern

With the start of each school year comes a fresh set of faces, and Her Campus Gustavus is among many groups on campus that are beyond excited to welcome the class of 2020 to the hill! One group of students in particular, the Collegiate Fellow staff, is especially thrilled for the new first years to join the Gustavus community. Her Campus Gustavus had the opportunity to speak with Ellen Kneeskern, a Collegiate Fellow in Norelius Hall (a.k.a. Co-Ed), about the first year experience, her role as a CF, and some advice to the incoming class.

Tell me about your first impression of Gustavus.

“I had really high expectations for Gustavus when I was touring because my parents both went here and they told me how great it was going to be. I didn’t really want to go here, actually, because I wanted to have my own experience. But then I came here and toured, and that changed my mind. Everyone seemed so wanting and so willing to help me have the best experience here possible; for example, when the admissions person found out that I wanted to study abroad, he said someone in their office knew a lot about the study abroad office and offered to let me meet with them while I was there. Right away Gustavus worked to make my experience as good as it could be, and it still does.”

It makes me happy to hear that your first impression was so positive; I’m glad you felt confident in Gustavus’ mission to make your experience a good one. On the flipside, did you have any fears coming into college?

“My first year here I was really worried that I wouldn’t find the type of friends I was looking for, that I wouldn’t find ‘my people.’ It’s weird because, in my first year here, I didn’t find my people. I had friends, but I’m not really friends with those people anymore. But as time went on, I did find my really close friends, and I’m still meeting really amazing people.”

I had a very similar experience; sometimes you don’t meet your close friends freshman year, and that’s okay. Going along with that, if you were to meet a first year who felt like they weren’t connecting with anyone here, what would be your advice to them?

“I would say don’t be afraid to be the person who takes initiative. I know everyone likes to have others invite them to do things but, if you don’t do it, other people are thinking the exact same thing. One of you has to do it and, if you’re the one to do it, you’ll become more confident in yourself because you’ll be the one physically going out and finding who you want to be friends with. Ask people to get dinner or study and, even though you won’t click with everybody, eventually you’ll find those people who you connect with.”

Aside from that, is there anything else that you wish you would’ve know as a first year that this year’s first year class could learn from?

“If you don’t find your place right away, don’t worry too much. It’s still the beginning of the year and the beginning of your experience, and sometimes it takes a while to find opportunities that you’re really excited and passionate about. You can’t see it in the moment, but then you look back and realize ‘wow, this is really great, I’ve met all of these amazing people, and this is where I belong.’”

I love that. Switching gears a little bit, can you tell a little bit about why you decided to be a CF?

“Last summer I was a camp counselor and I got to work with people everyday. I got to serve people and at the same time get energy back from them from their happiness and experiences. When I came back to Gustavus after camp, I felt super empty. It felt so weird not having that connection with people and not being there for others in the way that I had been at camp. I had been thinking about being CF for a while, but I think it was that feeling of missing being there for people that made me decide for sure. I wanted that feeling of fulfillment back.”

You seem very excited about the relational aspect of the job. Is there anything else that you want your residents to know in regard to your relationship with them?

 “When I was a first year I had a lot of questions, but I rarely asked my CF for answers because I didn’t want to bother her. I don’t ever want my residents to feel that way. I want them to know that the reason I took this job is so that I can talk to them and be here for them. Never be afraid to reach out; that’s what I’m here for. I want to get to know you and be friends. It’s not just a job; this is something I really want to do.”