Students are excited about returning to in-person classes this fall and a more normal college experience. For many, the 2021 fall semester will mark the first time they have been on campus since the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in USF’s St. Petersburg campus transitioning to remote learning in March of 2020.
It was, no doubt, a challenging time. Students took nearly all their classes online and didn’t get to enjoy group activities like hanging out with friends or attending sporting events. As a result, much of their college experience over the last 16 months was spent at home.
We talked to students about all the changes they have experienced since the pandemic began and how they feel about a full return to USF’s St. Petersburg campus.
Cassie Auseklis is a senior majoring in biology.
How did you feel when the school went to remote learning?
I didn’t mind it, and everybody was into it at first. Then it got challenging because you didn’t have that connection with your teachers. It was hard to adjust to what they wanted from us as students, and asking questions was intimidating. But I still felt, overall, it was an ok experience.
Are you glad to be going back, and why?
I am glad to be going back because of being in person. You have more of a connection with everyone on campus, and you feel more connected to your studies. You get more out of that experience and more shared stories from your professors than you do in a video they posted through Canvas.
I also think it’s beneficial to our biology program to have in-person labs. It helps bring all the concepts together, by having demonstrations. Last semester I was able to go back in person, so I was able to get more hands-on experience. It made it a lot better and easier to make connections to what we were learning than having lectures online.
Do you have concerns about COVID-19 and being around people again?
I was recently hired on campus, so it’s new to me coming back and being in the mix of it. I’m not as nervous because class sizes will still be small and precautions are being taken on campus, so I do feel comfortable about coming back.
Alyssa Pleffner is a senior majoring in global business. She is the student executive director of programming for the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
How did you feel when the college went to remote learning?
Initially, I was incredibly upset about it. I’m shy, so I liked that the St. Petersburg campus had smaller class sizes. I transferred here in the spring of 2020, so I only got two months on campus before everything went virtual. I had only interacted with a couple of classmates at that point.
How have you gotten involved in campus activities since this started?
Switching to virtual allowed me to reach out to professors and reach out to other classmates. It was less intimidating because I could reach out virtually. Last summer, I got a job as the director of communications in the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Now, I’m the executive director of the programming board.
Are you glad to be going back, and why?
Yes, it ended up being kind of perfect for me. Of course, the pandemic itself is not ideal, but I fell in this position that is helping me find what I want my future career to be. We’re going to be doing a lot of in-person programming, a lot of social events. I’m excited about the camaraderie that comes with being on campus.
Do you have concerns about COVID-19 and returning to campus this fall?
I’m vaccinated and those who are immunocompromised in my family are now vaccinated. I’m a little upset about those who can’t get vaccinated and have to stay home because not all of us are, but for me personally, I’m fine. I’m comfortable with it.
Livia Rosales is a senior majoring in marketing. She is currently lieutenant governor for student government.
How did you feel about college going to remote learning?
At first, it was shocking. When I came to the St. Petersburg campus in 2018, it felt homey and had the vibe of a small-knit community. I got involved in student government; I was a peer coach and a campus ambassador. Then, because of the pandemic, it became more challenging. I remember sitting at my kitchen table all day long when I’m used to bouncing around to different classrooms, going to our student union and studying or seeing friends on a daily basis.
All my roles were put online, so my jobs looked a little different. I lost that challenge and spark of being a student leader and serving for USF, but it’s been slowly coming back.
Are you looking forward to coming back, and do you have any concerns?
I look forward to normalcy and having that college experience. I want to finish the goals I started a year and a half ago. I do have some fears about COVID-19 cases rising and having to go back through the process again. I’m also concerned about graduation. I’ve worked very hard for my grad moment, and I would hate for that to be taken away.