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Covid Journals: We’re Back!

This month marked a significant milestone for the Stern community as it navigates (hopefully) the final stages of the Covid-19 Pandemic in New York City. While some in-person classes were taught over the course of the summer, with others still remote, the Fall 2021 Semester has seen in-person classes and on-campus learning return full throttle.

Walking through a bustling Washington Square Park filled with street performers and undergrads eating their lunch or sitting in a full KMC classroom, masked though we all may be, are significant milestones that also require a very real mental shift. For some of us, our Stern educations have been exclusively online or close to it. Speaking from one person’s perspective (my own), I am nearing the end of my MBA program and real world events have limited what was supposed to be a transformative, social experience into one that saw me have a grand total of three weeks of classes before the university remote.

While returning to campus for me is fraught with no shortage of anxieties, I am grateful to be learning in person again and interacting in the same physical space as people who have become friends despite only a handful of in-person meetings. Walking through the plaza outside KMC and spontaneously bumping into blockmates is the closest feeling I’ve had to being a real student since my days as an undergrad, days that, unfortunately, are much further in the past than I’d like to admit.

But even as the positive feeling of learning in a classroom again rather than focusing on my accounting final while my wife does an online dance class ten feet away is very real, students across Stern have had a wide array of emotions. There is excitement, health concern, and a surprisingly large amount of frustration over not being able to eat indoors.

As classes got underway this week, The Oppy asked a number of students about their thoughts and emotions as they stepped back on campus. Some were doing it for the first time in 18 months. Some were doing it for the first time ever. All of them had something to say.

(All quotes anonymous)

“Most common feedback I’ve heard is that people are annoyed by having to wear a mask for the entirety of class.”

“Food, man, is a killer. Vaccinated people should be able to eat on campus. It’s ridiculous that we can go eat and drink in happy hours but not in class when we’re all vaccinated.”

“I’ve been working as a TF for two weeks already, and being in a full classroom for the first time was more jarring than I expected it to be. Even so, I can already tell I’m learning more back on campus than I could on my laptop.”

“I hate how close everyone has to sit – tiny classrooms, people on top of each other.”

“It’s definitely strange to have a mask mandate but not to have limited classroom capacities. Also it’s annoying that I can’t eat during class, but I am thankful for professors who give slightly longer breaks, recognizing we need time to step out and eat something.”

“Filling out the Daily Screener is a necessary evil, but with so many people trying to rush into the building right before class, how can the security guards even verify that you’ve filled it out or that the Screener is from the correct day? Didn’t we upload our vaccination information for a reason?”

“I have been itching to get back into a classroom as I’ve learned I am not a very good student online, so I’m excited to be back and learning, despite some discomfort!”

“The classrooms have all been super not well ventilated and hot. It seems like the mask is a band-aid for the fact that it’s really not that safe to be back.”

“Zoom sucks. I’m deleting that app from my life. I’m learning exponentially more now than I did before.”

“I’d love to have masks optional for vaccinated folks. That way if they can’t do anything about seating arrangements those that feel better with a mask on may do so. That being said, I thought masks would be way worse than it was this past week. Granted it was more of a lecture-driven first class than discussion. I can see masks being a huge barrier to the learning environment with a discussion-based class.”

“I’m really hoping by Spring they make masks fully optional.”

“Yesterday [First day of classes] was the most intellectual stimulation I’ve had in years. I was so happy.”

“What’s up with the cafe in Stern being closed? I had to run to Dig Inn and eat a side of mac and cheese while walking on West 4th Street. It was delicious, but still.”

“Plus-one for longer breaks, especially if we can’t eat in the building. I like my snacks.”

“I love the longer breaks. However, it’s been very inconsistent between the professors. One gave us 10 minutes and another 20 minutes. Seems that even faculty is confused by all of this.”

“It’s really hard to hear people on the other side of the room with a mask. I really wish the professor was exempted from having to wear it. Other than that, I’m good. I’m happy to be back in the building.”

“The masks are less than ideal along with the daily form you have to do even if you’re vaccinated. None of it’s detrimental.”

“Honestly, my big takeaway from being back in class is that all the weird considerations are not that big a deal. It is difficult to hear people, though.”

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