Most years, the first day of class at UNC gives campus a bustling, exciting feeling and helps students connect with their classmates in person.
But, because of the pandemic, the Pit and Polk Place — typically hubs for activity — were quiet on Monday, with only a few passing students.
Many classes are being administered online this semester, and those held in person have been adjusted for smaller capacities and social distancing. In addition, students are now required to wear face coverings in University buildings.
Hannah Kaufman, a first-year advertising and public relations major, attended two classes online on Monday. She said the overall experience was overwhelming and felt impersonal.
Kaufman said getting to know her classmates was more difficult through a virtual setting, but better when other students engaged with the material and conversed using the chat feature on Zoom.
Like many students, Kaufman said what she missed from the usual first-day experience was the human interaction.
“I like the excitement of talking to people after class and getting to know the people around you one-on-one, and you can’t do that in Zoom,” she said.
Gabriela Duncan, a junior interdisciplinary studies major, said she also missed the excitement of seeing friends on the first day of class.
“There’s just overall a lack of energy and excitement, and I usually like to build off of that,” Duncan said.
Duncan said with less structure in classes and having less interaction with classmates, it is harder to keep up with course schedules. But she said she thinks virtual learning will run more smoothly this semester than it did this spring.
“When it was done last spring – just because there wasn’t enough time to transfer over – I think it was very chaotic,” Duncan said. “Hopefully, since there was more time to prep for it, it’s going to go a lot smoother.”
Fabian Stepinski, a sophomore international student studying economics and computer science, said online classes require more responsibility because there is less accountability from classmates and professors.
On the other hand, Stepinski said he likes the flexibility that comes with virtual learning and said his professors are doing well with providing resources to students.
Stepinski said he is optimistic about the ability of UNC students to adjust and make the best of virtual learning despite this semester’s challenges.
“We’re all students, we’re all young, we can make adjustments,” he said. “Even though for some people it’s very hard, they get it. Our generation, we are born and raised with technology.”
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