When I first received the email explaining that the 2021 fall semester was going “back to normal,” I was ecstatic. After over a year of online classes, not being able to see loved ones and social isolation, it looked like there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Finally, I would have the typical college experience for my senior year after only being on campus until midway through my sophomore year. While I knew things would not entirely go back to normal while continuing to follow pandemic precautions, I thought that at least I would start to feel like I did before the pandemic started.
However, there was one thing I wasn’t expecting to feel: anxiety about returning to this long-awaited normalcy. Would I remember how to navigate my way to class? Would I feel comfortable studying in Marston Science Library? Would I miss my bus because the RTS app is increasingly inaccurate? How do I even account for travel time anymore after an extended period of logging onto Zoom to access my classes, meetings and social events?
Most of all, I was nervous because I knew that it’d be difficult to follow pandemic precautions. It seemed that almost everyone was ready to be crowded together again without a face covering, despite the recent surge in Gainesville COVID-19 cases.
Before classes began, I didn’t feel ready to take on the challenges of adjusting back to life pre-pandemic. I’d gotten used to being a recluse. However, I mustered up the courage to tackle the beginning of the semester, and I now feel much more comfortable in my daily routines. While I still experience some nerves when planning my days packed with volunteering, working, classes and medical school applications, I feel more adjusted than I ever thought I would.
Hoping to spread my methods of adjustment, here are my top tips for this in-person semester after graduating from a year of Zoom University.
- Be kind to yourself
Self-compassion must be at the forefront. Think about it: You may be juggling a full class load, a job, volunteering, clubs and family responsibilities, and that’s on top of a pandemic and the resulting emotional stressors. Don’t be hard on yourself if you feel anxious about an assignment or make a mistake at your job; it’s normal. If anything, now is the time to make sure that your inner voice is your number one cheerleader. Allot time to check in with yourself to confirm that you’re hanging in there.
- Plan, plan, plan
While online classes still exist, most students have returned to having at least one in-person class this semester. Gone are the days of waking up one minute before class, rolling over to turn your camera off and snuggling up for a nap while the professor lectures to a black screen. Now, we have to drag ourselves out of bed, take the trek across campus and make sure we’re paying attention to a non-recorded lecture. It’s going to take more time to be campus ready, so plan accordingly the night before so you don’t miss the morning bus.
Speaking of planning accordingly, scheduling your day or even your week is crucial to success. It’s easy to keep to your schedule one day and oversleep your 8:30 a.m. class the next, but this will only throw off your entire agenda. Use a physical planner, your phone’s calendar app or your laptop’s notes to chronologically plan when assignments are due and what time classes begin.
During the first week of my hybrid class this semester, I arrived at the indicated classroom only to discover that the first week’s lectures were online. Do not make my mistake. Write out your schedule instead of relying on your already overworked brain to remember it all.
- Make your safety a priority
With the return to in-person classes, it could seem that there’s been a decreased emphasis on healthly practices while still in a pandemic, especially with recent surges. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to forego your sense of safety if you see others not following expected regulations.
Proudly wear a proper and sanitary face covering on campus. Don’t feel peer pressured into taking it off if you witness no one else wearing one. Take advantage of the hand sanitizer stands conveniently located around campus. If you don’t feel comfortable attending events yet, then just don’t go. You don’t have to. You’re the only one who knows your own limits and what makes you feel safe, so don’t compromise yourself for the sake of the opinions of others.
- Have fun without overthinking
Finally, don’t overthink your every word and action to new campus faces. Trust me, I’m nervous, too. After so long of not having to worry about making new friends in classes or clubs, we’re suddenly being thrust into social situations that feel like they’re sink or swim. But that’s not the case.
Everyone is nervous about their rusty social skills at the start of the semester, so it’s completely normal to overthink your interactions. Despite those shared feelings, I encourage you to push past the anxious urge and to live in the moment. After all, it’s exciting to make 3D friends outside of a 2D Zoom. Don’t punish yourself for a few conversation slipups.
With these tips, I hope that the transition from online classes to this in-person semester goes a little smoother. I know we’re already settling in for the long haul until December, but don’t forget to prioritize your wellbeing during this transitional period. After all, we may come to appreciate campus life unlike before after not experiencing it for so long.