As a university, we are moving away from Zoom squares restricting our reality and moving toward in-person classes and events that offer more growth opportunities.
Masks and COVID-19 may remain barriers that limit our sense of normalcy, but finally being able to further connect in-person with our campus, faculty and students provide a glimmer of hope.
Still, the first day back on campus this semester was a shock for many students and faculty at Cabrini University. You could feel the many anxious footsteps of students heading to real classrooms, hear the extra loud rumbling of hungry stomachs waiting in line at the cafeteria and see cars flooding the parking spaces. It has been more than a year since the beginning of the pandemic, and Cabrini’s less-restricted campus has been an unusual adjustment for me after a year of almost full-time virtual learning.
The line between freshman and sophomore is blurred, and the culprit is COVID-19. I’m currently a sophomore, but my pandemic-riddled first year experience left me unsettled. As a freshman living on-campus last year, I grew indifferent to Covid restrictions. My freshman year routine was easy: wake up then hop onto my computer to attend an online class. It quickly turned into a dance between engaging with blank mini squares, dozing off with a blanket wrapped around me during lectures and then being distracted by the comforts of my dorm room. My dorm was also my classroom (of course these locations should be mutually exclusive to each other).
Now as a sophomore, I can rewrite my freshman year experience and move forward. I must adjust from a sleepy and dead campus to a more lively, active campus. Granted, while mornings are still sleepy for some, the daily activity and enthusiasm around me this semester is both welcoming and comforting.
In my experience last year, Cabrini felt closed-off. I had not been in a fully functioning classroom in a while. Now, I’m participating in full-class discussions, group activities and having lectures in person. The online world had the power of pulling me away from reality, and it is finally refreshing and important to snap back and re-engage in an in-person lifestyle at Cabrini.
The academic and social shock from online to in-person is challenging. We, as students, are used to logging in on Zoom or other video-sharing platforms and then “multitasking” in our dorm rooms. For me, my unhealthy habits (academically and socially) consumed my life. I became closed-off, and I developed lazy study skills. During this new semester, it is important to re-learn a balance between school life and your personal life. For example, students need to create a strong study plan combined with exercise and social activities.
Nature and the scenery around campus have been a pathway for me to adjust to a less restricted campus. Walking along the pavement and looking up at the blue sky and calm greenness surrounding the campus has been a source of reflection and inspiration for me. My connection to nature and the available beauty on campus has allowed me to relax and reflect on my experiences and views.
Music and entertainment media have also been an outlet for me to enjoy myself and relinquish the stressors that I hold within. If I feel distressed or lost, I go onto Netflix or Spotify and take the time to relax.
The contrast between last year and this semester is distinct. As a country, we are making steady progress in the war against COVID-19. We embraced a closed online school format when needed, and now we are learning to live and study again in an open environment. It is exciting and relieving, but at the same time, it feels like getting a headrush when you quickly stand up. It’s now time to focus on creating new college experiences, in a supportive environment that acknowledges the past year, while inspiring our Cabrini community to move forward with hope.