The University of Memphis plans to reopen its campus at full capacity in the fall semester of 2021, encouraging students and teachers to prepare for the transition to return back to an on-campus collegiate experience. For many students, this will be the first opportunity they get to be face-to-face with their fellow classmates and teachers.
From the joy of meeting your friends at the UC, to the anxiousness of the first day to find the location of your classes, or the opportunity to join clubs and becoming involved in extracurricular activities on campus, many freshmen and sophomore students were robbed of their “first experiences” due to COVID. But, as vaccines have continued to be disbursed — with President Biden promising all adults will have access to a vaccine by May if they want it — the University of Memphis continues to push through unprecedented times and students may soon be able to embrace the true Tiger experience.
Students have expressed both excitement and concerns about the upcoming fall semester, however.
“The university has been very active in trying to reopen in the fall. It has been a struggle with virtual learning overall, and the disconnect has been felt by so many students,” said Brea Hinds, a sophomore. “I hope that the university has a detailed plan to keep everyone on campus safe when we do return. The stress of school and a pandemic has not been ideal, so the fall return would be wonderful if one burden were eliminated if even in the slightest. When the university
does reopen in the fall, I will be glad to connect with all my fellow Tigers again and move forward in helping our communities.”
Although virtual learning has been the gateway for the continuance of courses, with Zoom as the gateway tool, many students began feeling a disconnect from their classes.
“Virtual learning is obviously not the same as in person instruction,” Hinds said. “I have been fortunate to have many of my professors be understanding and communicate effectively on how virtual learning will be conducted, but I know many students who are having a hard time and cannot wait for in-person learning again. It does feel like virtual learning is more high stakes because of the disconnect with my professors and peers, trying to navigate technology and having little time to rest. I’m thankful that many of my professors have made their course adjustable over tech and that has been one of the benefits to the virtual learning switch.”
As what could become the final spring semester of virtual learning continues, some students feel a lack of motivation to continue to press forward.
“I don’t feel like I’m in college,” said Jalen Greene, a psychology major. “Online learning is much more difficult than learning in a classroom. It also makes the content seem less important. I don’t really have use for this new information if I can barely leave the house. It seems like we are being taught skills to survive in an old world. The skills that we are being taught may not even be relevant in the post COVID-19 world.”
As the UofM continues to prepare for a more traditional-learning style in the fall, the rising concern among students is how they will remain safe, if the university opens at full capacity. Throughout the pandemic, the University of Memphis has prioritized keeping all members of the campus community healthy and safe and continues to send emails and updates about the plans for the campus and the safety protocols that will take place. As the world continues to attempt to reach a sort of pre-COVID normalcy, the UofM – along with other universities across the nation – continue to operate in accordance with CDC guidelines.
As students look ahead, towards the potential in-person learning in the fall, some feel excitement while others feel aprehensive.