Leaving campus last semester so abruptly was a strange feeling. Finishing classes online and staying home was the new normal that many became accustomed to. Here we are five months later, and the “normal” is changing again.
Returning to campus was both exciting and nerve-racking. Being back in Athens is all I have wanted for these past five months, but at the same time, safety is still the number one priority.
Following safety measures and taking precautions is the same, whether doing online classes at home or in Athens. Taking those steps did not change just because of coming back to campus.
This biggest safety precaution was Ohio University’s decision of a phased return. This has changed the way Athens operates, and for those that have returned to Athens, they have seen the change firsthand. The only students that are back are the upperclassman with off-campus housing and any sophomores living in Greek Life housing.
Mackenzie Volker, a junior at Ohio University, is the president of her sorority, so she is working to keep herself, the members of her sorority, and others in the community safe.
“I was very nervous to return back to campus. I always have a mask on whenever I leave my house and am walking down the street no matter what time of day," she said.
Volker also said she has missed her friends, but has refrained from seeing them since safety is her number one priority.
"I haven’t been able to visit my friends that also live on campus in fear of coming in contact with Covid-19, which is disheartening because I have missed these people so much," she said. "I haven’t seen most of them since March, so it’s difficult to refrain from seeing them. But, I am willing to make the sacrifices as long as it means that the freshman and sophomores can come back to campus and can experience the magical experience I had my freshman and sophomore years.”
Maybe it has to do with freshman and sophomores making up the majority of on-campus life, but the campus and Athens, in general, is calm and quiet. There are still groups of people around town and engaging in activities, but compared to last school year, it is not the “normal.”
Last school year, you could be walking down Court Street or Union Street and constantly pass people, but now you may pass 15 people total.
A sophomore at Ohio University, Erin Blackburn, is back on campus because she was allowed by the university to move into her sorority house.
“Being on campus this year differs from last year because the atmosphere has changed a lot. Since there are very few students on campus, the normal day to day hustle and bustle is gone," Blackburn said. "You don’t get to see many people in all the popular places to study or hang out around campus. It is also different because there is no scheduled reason to be out and about on campus since classes are online.”
Both Blackburn and Volker are grateful to be back in Athens even with the new “normal” they live in because being in Athens gives them the right mindset for classes and work rather than being in their hometowns. Being in Athens helps them focus on coursework and stay on track in their schedules.
At the end of the day, we are all still students taking classes and trying our best to learn, whether in Athens or our hometowns.