Hello everyone! I have a new post that’s a little bit more personal today in regards to college in a “post” pandemic world.
Of course, the pandemic isn’t over globally, but this is the first time in a long while since I’ve been back to school. A new school year is already stressful, and on top of that I’m a sophomore who’s never been on campus before. Combine that with a lack of in-person schooling for over a year and a half and you get a very anxious student.
But, what was my experience like? How did the first week of classes go? What is it like trying to make friends when you can barely hear people talk through their masks? In today’s post, I want to cover my story of these past few weeks and what college is like for a new student post-pandemic.
A Little Background
In case you didn’t know, I’m a sophomore at my local state university: a medium-sized school with about 6,000 students and a fairly small campus. Because of the pandemic, I’ve only been to campus twice for tours over a year ago at this point.
I’m also an English major with a concentration in writing and a communications minor. A mouthful, I know!
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Summer break felt like forever. Although online school was still a time of learning, it definitely didn’t have the same feel of in-person learning. I found online learning to be a little difficult, but it had a few benefits- waking up later, less driving, and less interactions for better or worse. Most of my professors also reduced assignments: getting rid of entire literature books, units and sections. I could easily get by in a class I found not too difficult.
Of course, it lacked a bunch of benefits in-person learning had. It didn’t really feel like school, even though I was technically taking the same number of classes and learning roughly the same material. So for that reason, summer break felt longer.
I struggled a little, especially the closer I got to the new school with usual first-day-of-college worries. Where are my classes? Where would I sit? What if I hated a class right away? What ifs after what ifs. I knew a lot of my fears are arbitrary and won’t really matter- especially because both freshmen and sophomores are new on campus. Meaning, half the campus was new and it made me feel a bit better.
The Week Before
The week before classes started was roughly the same as previous weeks. But, I focused more on buying books, getting a new backpack, supplies and of course a new mask.
Two days before my first day of class, I had to pick up my ID, which gave me a chance to look around campus. It was fairly busy despite classes not have started, but the people living on campus had moved in. In addition, there was activities going on all the time, so it felt like the real experience. I had a little bit of trouble navigating as everything looked so different with so many people, but otherwise not a noteworthy experience.
I am very glad I went early for a visit because I could finally relax a little. I was really, really anxious the night before for a plethora of reasons, but by the time I came home I was mostly feeling better. Instead of being 90% anxious and 10% excited, I became about 50/50. Which, still sounds like a lot, but for me that’s a pretty good ratio.
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First Day Of Classes
The night before was a bit nerve-wracking as I had to make sure I had everything ready, but also the weather was being unpredictable because of the leftover rain from the hurricane. The storm was already causing tornadoes, and it didn’t really help the situation. But, the show had to go on.
Thankfully the rain shifted and it rained during the night, so my first day was a cloudy start and sunny end. I got up early- 6:20 to be exact- to get ready to carpool with my friend to school. I was nervous, but I was feeling a lot better than I was before I picked up my ID.
I have nearly 2 hours of free time before my first class, so it gave me an opportunity to see to see the online portion of my classes. I quickly noticed throughout the day that professors were prepared for the worst: we could go back to online at any moment. Everything we could need was already online, which is nice to see assignments early and have everything organized.
Another thing I noticed was that everyone was wearing their masks and wearing them correctly. My university has been pretty strict: required vaccines before the majority of other colleges in my area, and professors were required to kick out any students not wearing a mask. So, pretty understandable.
I asked my professor about eating in class- I have chronic nausea that requires me to eat small, frequent meals and I have no lunch breaks on Thursdays. I learned it was a grey area for the school- no information was given about eating in class. One of my professors said no eating as she’s immunocompromised and wants to be as safe as possible, but otherwise it was a grey area. He promised me to have a class discussion on what we felt was safe and make a decision based on what we felt, which was very nice of him. I half expected him just to say no.
There is some social distancing, but not a lot. In classrooms where we have the space we tend to. It’s not required but generally people keep a little distance anyways when people don’t know each other to be polite. My university isn’t crammed besides on the stairs and main walkways anyways.
Otherwise, a fairly normal experience. Professors warned we could go back to online at any time, masks indoors, and normal actives and classes.
The masks are still frustrating. They still hurt my ears and makes it hard to communicate when you can’t hear each other. As someone who usually smiles and laughs instead of talking, it’s been a difficult transition to talking more and expressing myself in other ways.
But it’s better than being online, in some ways. It’s nice to feel like a student again- driving to school, attending classes, maybe even joining a club or two. It makes me feel like I’m not missing out anymore or feed into the fear that all 4 years will be online. Of course, it’s not perfect, but I’m glad we’re getting closer to a normal reality. I’m crossing my fingers that Fall 2022 we’ll all be maskless, but that’s just a hope.
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I hope you enjoyed this slightly different post! I really wanted to share my experience not only for myself and my regular readers, but to students who are freshmen or soon-to-be freshmen.
Also, this is all based in my current experience in the States. I’m not sure what it’s like elsewhere in the world right now, but in the US we’re in a major in-between area that varies from building, business, town, state and federal levels. My university is being careful, and this has been my overall experience the first week.