By Makayla Cook and Victoria Mims
Our new “norm” as college students has shifted since coronavirus came in and redefined college life.
All summer, students across the country wondered if they would return back to campus or not. For William Peace University, students who chose to return back to live on campus were welcomed with many different health protocols in place.
The university continues to closely monitor the spread of COVID-19 through daily health trackers and updating students through email. As of now, WPU is not following in the patterns of bigger universities such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University that have already had to transition to all online classes.
“The first thing we need to do is realize that this fall obviously is going to be very different,” WPU President Dr. Ralph said in a video published on YouTube on July 31 by the university, “but I believe that it has the potential to be also very special and very memorable.”
“Of course, now, a lot of that is going to reside with each of us as community members.”
Classes have seen major differences this semester. A lot of classes moved to completely virtual or hyflex, which means it’s a combination of virtual and in person. This limits the amount of contact in a classroom and allows social distancing to be possible.
Some students have mixed feelings about most classes being virtual considering that the learning experience is different compared to being in person, though many are adapting.
“If you’re doing online classes make sure to take note of your assignments and stay on top of them. Turn your camera on and be present. Engaging yourself is important,” said WPU sophomore Megan Mcwilliams.
First-year theatre major, Ashlynn Charles, has been missing the stage as the productions by the theatre department have been put on halt.
“We’re not able to perform, so that’s kind of disappointing, I don’t really like that, but we’re still able to learn techniques and I like that we’re still able to have classes in person,” Charles said.
Following the resolution of the pandemic, Charles is “really excited” for her acting class, saying that it will be a lot of fun having such a great teacher.
Moving in looked different and living in the residence halls are definitely different also. Masks must be worn at all times unless students are in their rooms, there can only be one guest per student in the room, and overnight guests/non-WPU guests are prohibited. This doesn’t seem like too much of a change, but to students living on campus last year these are some major changes.
There were a lot of students who also decided to commute due to the potential of having to go back home and not wanting to risk their health. Decisions had to be made during this time and students chose the option they felt would be best for them.
Although WPU and all of its community members have had to go through such a trying time, a lot of them are just simply glad to be back on campus together.
Another student, Kiersten Flint, said that despite the pandemic and its obstacles, almost nothing has gotten in the way of forming bonds. She also said that COVID has “not really” made it hard to make friends but that trying to make plans with friends has been an adjustment.
“We’ve been more cautious and trying to be more careful on how we interact with each other with still being safe,” Flint said.
The WPU dining hall now has more to-go options and has a maximum capacity that can be reached, and if that capacity is reached students have to wait to eat.
For students who used to socialize a lot in the dining hall, it’s now a little hard to do so due to there being plexiglass put up on some of the tables. Therefore, students now have to figure out new innovative ways to talk to friends while eating.
Sports have also changed. Skyler York, a freshman volleyball player, said that she and her teammates have to sanitize everything after they are done and social distance. Her team is split in half, making two different practice times.
“We can’t all practice together so it’ll be kinda hard to get to know my teammates,” York said. “Before we could freely practice whenever we wanted, we could be as close to each other as we wanted. It was just a lot easier before now.”
Students and faculty at WPU are taking the coronavirus seriously and doing everything in their power to follow the guidelines, even though it may not be comfortable all the time.
“Keep yourself safe and don’t go to parties or with crowds. With not much going on and with there being nothing to really do, it’s a good time to really focus on school,” said WPU sophomore Joley Cabe.
It’s easy to get stressed out or overwhelmed during this time more than ever because things are so different, but many students, faculty and staff see it as a time to focus on community.
“There isn’t much to do but stay safe and stay hopeful,” said WPU sophomore Jahmeek Bracey.