UMass students share their thoughts as they return to campus for full in-person learning

Sophomores get to have a “normal” college experience

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By Sofi Shlepakov, Assistant News Editor

This time last year, the University of Massachusetts campus was vacant and the unpredictability of COVID-19 forced many students into their homes to take classes remotely. Now, the University has opened up its doors again, allowing the campus to return back to in-person classes.

In order to return to campus, students are required to get vaccinated unless having a proven religious or medical exemption. All qualified students are able to live on campus, go to the dining halls and enjoy the amenities of campus once again.

In a statement released on Aug. 9, the University brought forth a mandate for both students and professors that required students to be masked while in all UMass buildings.

An email sent by Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy read: “This includes important news about vaccination requirements and the adoption of a face-covering requirement for indoor public spaces designed to deter spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant. The mask requirement starts August 11 and will be reviewed in mid-September.”

Sophomore management major Riley Linden said that this year compared to last has felt a lot different, even with the mask mandate in place. “It’s so weird to see that many people in one space. You never thought you’d see it again after last year,” Linden said.

Isabella Simoneau, a sophomore accounting major, also says that this year has been better than last semester as she gets to enjoy living with a roommate and attempting to gain back a “normal” college experience.

“It’s going to be really nice to even figure out a routine,” Simoneau said. “Now that we have a routine it’s nice to figure out when you want to get breakfast and then go to the gym, and then class.”

Some students though are experiencing campus life for the first time.

Aryaan Kulkarni, a sophomore economics and finance double major, experienced his first year of college in his home abroad in Dubai. Kulkarni said he is excited to be on campus and have a college experience that he was unable to have this past year.

Along with the excitement, Kulkarni says he has some reservations about being back in person.

“One reservation is testing, I haven’t taken a test in over a year on paper in a classroom. I’ve kind of been spoiled, because you get comfortable taking tests…I don’t feel the same kind of pressure that I would inside a classroom,” Kulkarni said.

“Masks, all they’re doing is, you know, reducing transmission from one person to another. I think wearing a mask in classroom shouldn’t be a problem, at least for me. I don’t see it as a problem,” added Kulkarni.

Simoneau agreed, saying that although she does not like to wear masks, it is worth it if that is what the campus has to do as a community in order to have in-person classes.

“I definitely think it’s so much easier to learn in person and meet your teachers and actually talk to them,” Simoneau added.

Linden says he does not mind the mask mandate because it is a big change to be seeing so many people compared to last year, but at times can be weird not seeing people’s full faces in class.

“It’s not like we’re missing out too much from the professor’s standpoint. It’s nice to see classmates after class because you’re not just looking at them through a face mask,” Linden said.

Sofi Shlepakov can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @SShlepakov