(Photo courtesy UMass Lowell) Students are back on campus for the fall of 2021.
The year of 2020 was the year every- thing existed on-screen. With vaccines rolling out across the country and many schools opening back up at full capacity, UMass Lowell included, it looks like 2021 will be the year college life will go back to existing on campus.
The return to campus has been a big adjustment for many. For some stu- dents, it has been challenging to com- mute to classes every day. For others, the shift back to campus means sitting through engaging in-person classes and reconnecting with peers face-to-face.
Being virtual had its perks. Or did it? The common thought among some stu- dents is that while virtual classes were more accessible and cut down on that pesky travel time, it was also easier to indulge in ones desire to “relax.”
Some students said it was easy to mute themselves and turn off their cam- eras while in class; all they had to do was listen to the class until it ended. Many students say that while it seemed easier to indulge in these kinds of habits, it was not helpful to them in the long run.
Commuters had seen some changes by going virtual; coming back to cam- pus means having to add travel time to the agenda. Peer Leader and senior business major Heer Patel, a commuter year behind the screen student, said that “[being] virtual was better in terms of time management … I could do and attend to more things because it would just be one Zoom call after another without the traveling.” Being virtual was convenient, no travel time meant more time to join events.
Students who were freshmen during the virtual 2020-2021 school year had their own unique struggles, but being in person seems to be a welcomed change for new students. Freshman computer science student Darin Abankwa said, “It feels better [being in-person].” He expressed simi- lar thoughts as other college students by saying that being in-person feels like he can be more engaged. He added that he felt like he was just going with the flow in his high school classes, but now he feels present and prepared to learn.
Classes weren’t the only thing that had to go virtual; clubs did as well. Clubs and organizations had to not only create virtual events, but find new ways to make them interactive, too.
Programs like the Riverhawk Scholars Academy — a program that supports incoming first-generation college stu- dents — had to engage with their students in a whole new way.
Patel said, “The downside of being virtual was [the] lack of human interac- tion.” That didn’t stop her from work- ing to make her time with the RHSA community interactive. She along with other Peer Leaders and faculty hosted events through Zoom that helped bring the RHSA community together and still be engaging.
“Being virtual taught us that things are still possible even without being in person.”