This article is part of an ongoing series, in which students document their experiences, both on campus and beyond, from their unique perspective.  

Valentín Padilla ’22, a resident assistant in Moreau Hall, felt a rush of emotions when returning to campus in August after being gone for five months. Here are Valentín’s reflections of being back on campus in the pandemic.  

Alarm clock in a residence hall room

I typically start my days at 8:00 a.m.

A dog at St. Edward's

My ESA dog, Xholo, a Xoloitzcuintli (Mexican Hairless dog), during his morning walk.

Voting signs at St. Edward's

During my morning coffee run at Jo’s on campus, I got to write this cute message. #vote

Watering plants

I water my plants as a daily reminder of growth and healing!

Valentín Padilla and Tariah Bennings

This is me with my coworker and fellow Basil Moreau Hall resident assistant, Tariah Bennings, during our morning shift at the front desk.

Valentín Padilla and his dog

Me and Xholo sunbathing after his second walk of the day.

Students at St. Edward's

My former coworkers and very close friends Viviana Jaimes and Hildana Adhanom at the Student Life suite. We all worked for the Diversity & Inclusion Department (featured in the background) last year, and this is our favorite study spot.

A student uses FaceTime with his parents

After my classes, and before eating dinner, I always call my parents on FaceTime to catch them up on my day. 

Mural at Hunt Hall Café

Mural at Hunt Hall Café that inspires me every day.

Sunset in front of the Main Building

Picture of me reflecting and getting ready to watch the sunset in front of the Main Building, where it all started.

Austin at night

After a long day of working, studying, classes, and attending meetings, I like to clear my head and catch a breath by going on night drives and listening to music.

Valentín Padilla's room

I like finishing off my day by catching up with emails and preparing for the next day and next adventure. 

More About Valentín

Where are you from? I was born in Mexico City and moved to Laredo, Texas, when I was 9 years old.

Major and graduation year? I am a double major in Psychology and Criminal Justice with an emphasis in Pre-Law. I graduate Spring 2022.

Which photo sticks out to you the most and why?  Although it may seem insignificant to my day, the moment that I value in my everyday routine is watering my plants. Watering my plants reminds me that change does not happen from one day to the next. Change is gradual but persistent. As a transgender man, I personally value the process of gradual transformation, and my plants are just a daily reminder of it!

What is life like on campus this semester? All of my classes are online. If you’re following safety guidelines and have conducted your daily screening from the Topper Safe app, then you can pretty much go anywhere. The library, Holy Cross Hall, Student Life, dining at Hunt Hall Cafe, and study rooms at in the John Brooks Williams Sciences Center–North are just some of the places I go. Most organizations are conducting their meetings via Zoom, but there’s still in-person events.

What’s been your biggest challenge during the pandemic, and how have you adapted or overcome it? I am a very family-oriented person, and going back to live with my parents for almost 5 months during quarantine felt like the old times. When I had to return to Austin, I definitely felt homesick for a couple of weeks. It felt like freshman year all over again, especially since they dropped me off at the residence hall.

What did you enjoy about Austin in the Before Times? I definitely enjoyed and miss seeing people’s smiles as I walked down South Congress Avenue. It was such an easy and fast way to spread positivity and possibly make someone’s day a little better.

What advice would you give high school juniors or seniors for doing a college search during a pandemic?  My biggest advice would be to do your research on each institution’s reaction to the pandemic and figure out how that might align with your values. For me, after seeing how St. Edward’s University responded to safety guidelines and support from faculty, staff and my fellow peers, I knew I had made the right decision.

Additionally, I want to note that we are all going through a global trauma so I would highly recommend prioritizing your mental health and making a careful decision on moving away, staying home or taking a gap year all in the name of well-being.