Time stood still for one year and a half. For most students, class just became something to entertain themselves for a few hours per day. Doing the bare minimum had never been easier than it was last year in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some students went from turning on their computer and muting the Zoom to do other things during class to a full-fledged return to in-person instruction, and this has been an adjustment for many UW-Madison students.
For the fall 2021 semester, UW-Madison planned a return to mostly in-person instruction, due to a high campus vaccination rate. Students are required to keep their masks on for the duration of their time spent in the classroom. For some, that could mean up to three to four hours straight in a science lab wearing a mask.
“I definitely deal with a lot of mask fatigue. It's really hard to focus and keep up the same energy I’m used to having, especially with the hot weather right now,” said first-year student Sophia Krekler.
First-years starting at UW-Madison face a major adjustment upon entering college, even when not factoring COVID-19 into the equation. Many students find it difficult to balance their schoolwork and a social life. Now imagine: all of this change coupled with spending nearly half of their high school years doing class on your couch, with minimal opportunities for social interaction due to most gatherings’ cancellations.
“It’s also been a super big adjustment back to normal because I was home doing online school for my entire senior year and now have to sit through hours of lectures and labs when I’ve been so used to sitting on my couch doing Zoom,” Krekler said. “I feel like it’s a lot harder to adjust to being a college student since I missed out on such an important year of high school.”
UW-Madison sophomores have also faced a nontraditional college path thus far. They ended their senior year of high school online, and made the adjustment to college life without ever stepping foot in a single lecture hall.
For some of them, this is their first year even living on campus. In many ways, they are facing a lot of the same challenges as the first year students.
While the university has worked to get as many students back in the physical classroom as possible, there is not enough space to accomodate for a complete, COVID-safe re-entrance to in-person instruction. The solution to this is to have some classes remain online.
Many students are spending their semester in a hybrid mode of instruction; that is, having some classes in person and some online. In many ways, this could ease students into the journey back to a regular school routine.
“So far the transition has been a good one for me just because I still have two online classes and three in person ones. So it has made it easier to transition from being completely online since March of 2020 to going back in person,” said UW-Madison second-year Hallie Fass.
Juniors are going from full normalcy to COVID-19 college during the 2020-21 school year to semi-normal going into the fall 2021 semester. With the challenges and adjustments that have resulted through the pandemic, masks have created a very interesting issue for UW-Madison third-year student Connor Monroe.
“Personally, wearing masks sucks for me because they irritate my beard,” said Monroe.
Monroe recalls acclimating to Zoom classes and has been working on his path back to a normal college schedule. While going back to normal is exciting for the third-years, who experienced life at UW-Madison before the pandemic hit, Monroe noted that there are definitely nuances to readjusting to society.
“The overall transition has been hard because online classes and whatnot made me lazy,” Monroe said. “I was so used to just doing work when it was due and now I have to get myself up to go to class and pay attention.”
While the transition back is not something that has been easy for students, many are excited for life to finally get back to it’s typical beat.
“I definitely enjoy my in-person classes a lot more than my online ones,” said Fass. “I was very nervous to go back in person.
“But it was definitely time to go back to reality.”