From the class of 2021 to 2025, The Daily Tar Heel spoke to UNC students who reflected on their experiences throughout the last two years of the pandemic.
Chapter 4: ‘Mom, it’s real’
On the first day of classes during the fall 2021 semester, Winter Earnhardt called her mom crying.
“Mom, it’s real,” she said over the phone.
Earnhardt was talking about the liveliness of the UNC campus on the first day of classes — something that, as a sophomore, she’d never experienced before.
What seemed like the entire UNC population was in the Pit, singing and dancing and enjoying themselves. She saw the school's mascots, Rameses and RJ, wandering around campus and interacting with students.
During her first semester at UNC in the fall of 2020, Earnhardt stayed in Koury Residence Hall after most students were sent home due to rising COVID-19 cases. Campus was so desolate that Earnhardt said she maybe saw one other person each day.
“Everything was so quiet that I stayed in my room because I could at least pretend that it was just a 'me' thing,” she said. “That I'm the one staying in my room, not that the campus was dead. Because when I would try and go study in the library or anything, it was just so surreal. It was kind of scary.”
But the spring 2021 semester brought more changes for Earnhardt. She moved into an off-campus apartment, enrolled in some classes that were to be taught hybrid and was excited for a more in-person learning experience.