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Students reflect on return to in-person classes after online semester

| Friday, February 5, 2021

Following a 10-week winter break, students returned to campus last week to begin classes for this spring. For some, this would be the first time since last March that they were physically back at Notre Dame. Medical and personal concerns took precedent on the decision-making front for many students who remained home during the fall 2020 term, opting to take online classes in lieu of in-person learning, or to take a break from classes as a whole.

For sophomore Margi Antonio, the choice to stay home in Singapore was made just days before her intended departure for South Bend. After experiencing a sudden COVID-related death in the family and recognizing the current state of the pandemic in the United States she decided to stay, she said in an email.

“I realized I could not leave my family at a time like this to go to a place where the virus was much more uncontrolled and prevalent,” Antonio said.

Although Antonio was ultimately unable to participate in online classes this past fall due to complications with obtaining the necessary approvals, she is thankful for the time she got to spend with family in a comfortable and safe environment.

“It turned out to be such a blessing. I essentially had no one to compete with, no grades to quantify my success and no real obligations,” Antonio said. “It made me realize what I genuinely wanted and love to do. I am also so grateful for all the time I spent with my family. I felt a lot safer being in a place like Singapore that took COVID extremely seriously and was really efficient about preventing the spread.”

Looking forward to a semester of in-person classes and experiences, Antonio is optimistic and excited about this spring now that the trial run that was fall 2020 has run its course, she said.

“I think the school has a better handle on the situation now that they have navigated the first semester,” she said. “I don’t have high expectations for gatherings and other social events, but I’m just happy to see my friends again.”

Similarly, Anna Bowman remained home in California where she was able to juggle online classes, work at an internship and spend time in the warmer weather.

“It was basically like a summer vacation but taking some classes,” Bowman said. “I did have an internship this semester too, so I think that was a great use of my time and definitely some great work experience, so I honestly wouldn’t change it.”

While Bowman said that professors were accommodating and that she enjoyed their unexpected time spent back home, she is excited to make the transition back to in-person learning.

“It’s definitely a kind of out-of-body experience to be back on campus,” Bowman said. “It’s weird to grab your mask to go to the bathroom and stuff like that, but honestly, it’s really nice that you get to interact more with your classmates more than you would on a Zoom and just getting to remake those personal connections has definitely been a plus.”

Yet students are still apprehensive about the uncertainty of protocols and current status of the pandemic. What might help ease tensions, Bowman said, would be the University becoming a vaccination hub.

“I would absolutely love it if Notre Dame became a vaccination site,” she said. “I think that is maybe the number one thing they could do to make students feel safer. I don’t really expect that the masks or the social distancing policies will be going away any time before next fall, but I kind of just hope to settle back in and reconnect with people.”

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