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Although we’re around the halfway point of this semester, it feels like it just began. The semesters fly by while you’re in college, and they don’t wait for you to catch up. While I was enjoying my summer and preparing for the fall semester, I never considered how I might be impacted by going back to in-person classes. I was so excited to actually be in a classroom that I didn’t realize how comfortable I had gotten with my more isolated routine.

The shift to being in the classroom has been a combination of wins and losses for me. It’s nice to actually be surrounded by my peers and like-minded people, as we are able to socialize and feel more connected to what we’re learning. However, it can also be very anxiety-inducing. I find that it can be very nerve-wracking to sit in a classroom, especially due to the post-COVID-19 threat of increased social anxiety. Research shows that the number of people who suffer from different types of anxiety or depression are much higher than before the pandemic began. This new era has been described as a new mental health crisis, as people experienced a lot of new emotions while our lives have changed these past few years.

While over Zoom, anxiety was easier to deal with. People had their cameras off, and classroom expectations seemed to be a little more lenient. In the classroom, it’s more difficult to actively participate in discussions. I think these fears also expand to anxiety when meeting new people in class. I find it harder to strike up conversations with my peers due to the long time away from making new friends. Being around a large group of people is unusual for a lot of us at this point, even after half a semester of in-person classes.

Although I am in my third year at UF, I feel like I am in many ways redoing my freshman year. For many of us, we only had one or a few full semesters of normalcy before everything changed. Our college experience was forever altered, and now we are in the process of restarting our journey again. For me, these past few weeks have included using my phone to map my way around campus and getting used to college classes. This restart gives us another chance to make things how we want them to be, which allows us to be in control. However, there are still many issues I have noticed that have held me back from grasping this opportunity.

COVID-19 in the classroom

Something that has been relatively difficult to deal with is COVID-19 while in school. As the semester goes on, I notice an alarming number of people who do not even attempt to follow protocols in the classroom. This can be very concerning as we all want to feel safe while learning. It’s also becoming increasingly difficult to balance our reemerging social lives with safe behavior. While I want to make new friends and make the most of my time at school, I still do not feel totally comfortable restoring my social life to normalcy. It takes away from my learning experience and makes me nervous when people in my class are not following protocols or appear to be very sick. This transition is not easy and will continue to take time as we learn how to live our lives in this new era.

Joining clubs

Due to the fact that many of us have not been on campus in a while prior to the start of this semester, it can seem intimidating to join a new organization. I have found that joining a club is one of the best ways to make school feel more like home and meet new people. I have already joined a new club this semester, which makes my social fears less prominent. The university has a resource that can sort through all the different organizations on campus until you find something that fits your preferences.

It can be intimidating to join a new group, especially when you feel like you are the newbie on campus. However, there are always plenty of new people in clubs who are in the same position. Most people are more than willing to talk and welcome you into their organization.

Registration

Registration begins towards the end of October, which is rapidly approaching. For me, one of the most difficult parts of registration is meeting with an advisor and communicating about my plans. I have never actually met with an advisor in person, so I am eager to get a meeting in soon. This is a new experience for many people, which makes registration even more stressful than it needs to be this year. It is important to be gentle with yourself and just take the new situations as they come.

Although this year is new and the challenges were unexpected, it represents a fresh start that we don’t get very often. Take the rest of the semester to be kind to your peers — and yourself — and make the most of your time, as we now know to not take any of this for granted.

Minna is an English major at the University of Florida. She is a features writer for Her Campus UFL.
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