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Fall 2021 Versus Fall '20 and Spring '21: A Sophomore’s Perspective

By Justin Kresse

It’s no secret that the past two semesters have been rather strange. However, we’ve all made it through and this new semester seems to be the beacon of light that we all were waiting for – especially those of us who started college in the middle of a pandemic.

As a freshman last year, starting college and making connections was rather difficult. I was on campus in the fall, but the number of other students on campus – especially those living on campus – was low. Most of my classes during that fall semester were hybrid, so a mix of in-person classes where I got to interact with classmates and virtual classes where I stayed up in my dorm room and attended the class on Zoom.

From what I’ve heard, I was lucky to even have a majority of my classes at least hybrid. Other sophomores have told me about how their classes were mostly online last semester, which means that they just sat in their dorm room, day in and day out, on Zoom.

Of course, there’s another side of the 2020-’21 academic year that some students took part in – going completely virtual. For many students, coming to campus just to sit by yourself and log into Zoom didn’t seem to be worth it. Those students chose to do all their classes online, even remotely joining classes that actually did meet in person.

After how isolated I felt during the fall 2020 semester, I chose to go virtual in the spring. It was a difficult decision. I knew that going virtual would isolate me even more from classmates and potentially make work more difficult, but I didn’t feel that the in-person experience I had received in the fall was enough.

For the most part, my virtual experience went well. I was able to join classes (even those that were held in person) through Zoom and have an acceptable experience. I even met a few students who were also virtual.

To be honest, though, it was harder to engage in class when there were 170 miles and a computer screen between the teacher and me, and I missed out on in-person activities like going into the city.

Classes ended and summer flew by as it usually does, and then it came time to go back. I chose to go back on campus for this semester, but I was worried that it would look very similar to last fall – especially with news of variants and reinstated mask mandates coming just before my move-in date.

The day finally arrived and after a long drive to campus from Reading, Pennsylvania, I finally got here and saw all the cars parked around campus. I could already tell that there would be more people around this semester, and it was an uplifting feeling that made me more confident in my choice to return to campus.

My first few classes have all but solidified the fact that campus seems to be back to some sort of normal. There are so many more students walking around, especially during the day. Classes are once again full and fewer classes are being taught on Zoom.

I think this change is mostly a result of the vaccine mandate. Students and faculty should all now have the vaccine and are generally feeling safer. While masks are still an appreciated necessity, individuals seem more comfortable on campus, and the ability even just to take off your mask when you’re outside with someone lets you connect so much better with them.

While I’m sure both professors and students long for the day that masks and social distancing are gone, we should also celebrate the progress we have had in returning to some sort of normal.

A year ago, I was pretty much stuck in my dorm room watching TV while I ate dinner. Now, I have a group of friends to eat dinner with every night.

All things considered, for a sophomore who had to start college during a pandemic, this year makes me much more optimistic about the future.

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