Last year, UNC-Chapel Hill was one of the first universities in the United States to reopen with a hybrid model that allowed students to continue living in dorms. Unfortunately, that quickly turned into a disaster.
Just two weeks after moving in, students were forced to leave their dorms. Freshmen were robbed of their first-year college experience, seniors were robbed of their last and the rest were equally as devastated.
A lot of you probably spent the school year cooped in your rooms. Dedicating most of your day to Zoom meetings, or crying over countless canceled plans, making TikToks, and hopping between your Instagram and Twitter feeds. As if this wasn’t already the case, school and hell became synonymous.
Now, as students return to campus in the 2021 fall semester, some will be relieved to see what resembles a return to normalcy. I, on the other hand, am battling a game of tug of war with excitement and fear. Returning to campus would be like ripping a piece of tape off the wall and trying to stick it back on. You think, “It may stick,” but then also realize that if it did, it would never be quite as successful as it was the first time.
Let me be clear: reuniting with friends, having lunch in the quad and attending football games are all super exciting, but just for a fleeting moment. Suddenly I am struck by reality and remember that we are still amid a pandemic.
The question of whether UNC-CH is prepared to go back in person was constantly on my mind. Rest assured, just a week before FDOC, the UNC-CH faculty committee held a meeting and revealed that of the 25,000 students who have attested their vaccine status, 94% said they were vaccinated. Additionally, 82% of faculty members reported being vaccinated
Fast forward to my first day on campus, I hadn’t even made it to the Pit before I noticed large groups of people gathered at every corner, maskless. As excited as everyone was, it was nearly impossible to adhere to the social distancing rules. A few days later, the first COVID cluster in a residence hall was reported. It was an overwhelming week. The fact the students were vaccinated was no longer bringing me comfort; honestly, nothing did anymore. If their first attempt at returning to campus in 2020 was a fail, how could I not raise any doubts?
So, here I am today, to serve as a reminder that the world simply is not the same. And until then, it is important to understand that we need to approach this school year with self-responsibility.
It’s going to be hard, I get it. As college students, it is extremely frustrating that the pandemic is putting a damper on our college experience. There is immense pressure on all of us. Parties or any social activity of that sort is appealing. However, putting that on hold is a sacrifice we’re going to have to make.
UNC-CH’s plans might not be well-structured, but the very least we can do is wear our masks, narrow our social circle, get vaccinated or otherwise get tested weekly. More importantly, we need to be considerate of our peers and faculty. We are only three weeks into the semester. I think we can do it. I hope you do, too.