Coming from a high school that only returned for in-person classes for the last few months of my senior year, moving to fully in-person classes in college has been a bit of a shock. The first week of classes felt super weird, actually being in a classroom again rather than a Zoom meeting.
During virtual learning, one of the most difficult things was connecting with people through the screen and getting to know others. I am already benefiting from in-person classes because it is so much easier to talk to professors and ask questions directly, rather than using the chat or waiting until virtual office hours. Along with the ease in communication, my mental health has improved since being able to interact with other people on campus and in classes. It has been a good shift being able to build classroom acquaintances and have small side conversations once again. Along with the small talk, I am glad to have class discussions again in a less chaotic fashion. Now, there aren’t any overlapping voices, but instead, higher energy conversations that don’t feel incoherent.
Despite the positives of being back in person, I have noticed that in some of my classes, the energy in the classroom still feels like a Zoom session. Even multiple weeks into the semester, many people are still very quiet before classes and during some discussions. When no one responds to a question, the silence takes me back to the black squares of a Zoom class.
Although distanced learning was a struggle, a few benefits came out of it. Some classes have implemented the tactics used in Zoom learning and brought them into the classroom, like my class taught by Rudy Sanchez, STEM Career Planning, who now uses a poll website to receive nonverbal feedback, just like the chat feature on Zoom.
After experiencing both types of learning, I am still conscious about COVID-19 and am frequently using hand sanitizer before and after my classes. It’s not entirely back to normal, but to me, wearing masks in class is much better than having to remain completely virtual. I often wish some people would take it more seriously, especially hearing about potential exposures popping up on campus. And while I’m very happy to be back in person for classes, I would not hesitate opting back to virtual learning if cases were to spike again. — Marisa Mendosa