If you were to walk around campus last fall semester, you might spot students lounging on campus quads or working on the steps of Wilson Library.
But, there is a major difference this semester — face masks.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, some students have chosen to take their classes remotely, while others have returned to campus to resume classes this fall.
“I wanted to come back because I just needed to be away from home to be successful, and feel like I actually had to do schoolwork,” Teiari Matthews, a sophomore majoring in management and society, said. “Even though I knew that at some point I may have to go back home, I was willing to take that risk. I knew I had to have the discipline to take the measures on campus to stay to myself, and not go to large gatherings.”
Before returning to campus, Matthews said he was already accustomed to the online teaching format as he took six summer classes. He said his first week of classes wasn't unfamiliar because he knew what to expect.
“I had to continue with online after the spring semester,” Matthews said. “I am adjusted to it. I’ve been adjusting by having a schedule and going about my day as if I still had to go to class even though I have to log in virtually. Trying to not log in from bed and getting up and getting dressed.”
For those who come to campus, students can socially distance and work in various locations, including campus libraries. The first two floors of Davis Library and the Carolina Union are open on a modified schedule.
Some students, like Naudia Brown, a junior majoring in sociology, said the adjustments and changes made this semester are suitable for their learning style.
“I have three remote classes, and I have three in-person classes,” Brown said. “The in-person classes are different because we have to social distance and wear masks, so I don’t sit around a lot of people, and it’s hard to communicate and ask my peers questions if I don’t understand something. Classes are also smaller, so that’s a good thing because it’s more personal.”
Brown said rules of social distancing make contact with friends challenging at times.
“I feel like everyone is far apart because you have some people that didn’t come back to campus and you have some people that stayed off campus, so I don’t feel that close connection to my friends that I did in previous semesters,” she said.
Brown said the campus atmosphere felt gloomy because of how separate everyone on campus seems in comparison to before the pandemic.
The campus setting this semester is unique, and for J’sha Gift, a first-year student participating in UNC’s Carolina Away program, she said she feels optimistic about her online semester while she tackles her school work from home.
“Most of my friends that are going to UNC, their classes were online anyway, so I don’t feel disconnected from my classmates in that way," Gift said. "As far as student life goes, I do a little bit. Honestly, I have made my peace with it because when I measure it up to the pandemic, that’s not a risk that’s worth taking. I know eventually, I’m going to go on campus and do all of these events.”
Gift said she hopes to continue to form friendships, albeit remotely.
“I’ve met people the same way that I think everybody has at this point,” Gift said. “For Carolina Away students, we have group chats and sometimes Zoom study sessions that we will do to do homework. It’s not the same environment that I would get from being on campus still, but at the same time, a lot of people are in the same situation, so it doesn’t really affect me as much socially. I do wish I had more opportunities to go on campus and see people and connect that way.”
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