A long-awaited return to normalcy

Students react to living on campus post-vaccine

For most students, it is very strange transitioning back to a semi-normal school year. Some students have only ever experienced college amidst COVID-19, while others have been able to see what Allegheny has been like before, during and after the pandemic.

“It was super weird because I felt like I was a freshman again,” Sara Adams, ’23, said. “Everything changed because I was online most of my sophomore year. I had to really re-adjust to the dining and everything due to all of the changes. I had to re-familiarize myself with the campus. [I did this by walking] around campus and find[ing] all of the buildings again. … Now I’m just happy to be back on campus because I definitely like learning in-person more than online.”

Adams also mentioned the change between what was offered her first and third year.

“My living situation has changed drastically from freshman year,” Adams said. “I have my own room and am [living] in an apartment-styled living instead of sharing a communal bathroom. That was a really weird change.”

Although her living arrangement has changed, Adams still recognizes areas where Allegheny has remained unchanged. After all of the past year’s adversity, students still feel a sense of belonging at Allegheny.

“[On the other hand], there is not really a lot of difference,” Adams said. “I still feel like the classes and professors are giving the same amount of education. I feel just as comfortable on campus as I did freshman year due to the safety and COVID protocols this year.”

With this return to semi-normalcy, some are worried that it might change as quickly as it came. With the COVID-19 virus mutating, students are taking precautions in case Allegheny has to switch back to online classes.

“I’m kind of on edge about suddenly being uprooted like we were my freshman year [due to the delta variant],” Adams said. “I actually didn’t pack a lot. I packed really light clothing-wise because I didn’t want to bring all of my stuff for it to have to be brought back home. I am worried about the year being cut short again.”

Safiatou Compaore, ’23, agrees with Adams, arguing that in order to maintain a semblance of normalcy, students need to continue to stay vigilant.

“I feel like it changed a lot,” Compaore said. “The dining hall, academics and environment. I’m excited to go back to class. I feel like academically, I would work better. But I am worried about Crawford County’s (rising COVID cases) and just in general because I know that we’re not wearing masks. We have to wear masks when we leave campus, but I feel like after a time, people forget that because we don’t have to (usually) wear masks. It’s kind of worrisome.”

Many students have felt isolated due to necessary physical distancing measures and have tried to make the most of it. Compaore commented on the changing social dynamics as a result of the pandemic.

“There’s a huge difference (between before COVID and this year at Allegheny),” Compaore said. “I feel like before COVID, people were more interactive with each other. When COVID happened, people had to build little groups that they could stay around. They’ve gotten comfortable with their little pods of groups so friend groups are a little more spread out and people are not really interacting with each other.”

Class of 2025 students like A.J. Kimbrough are positioned uniquely, as their only college experience is within the confines of Allegheny’s “new normal.”

“I guess it’s the sense of community and everyone is trying to get back to that,” Kimbrough said. “COVID kind of robbed people of that. Just being around people trying to learn in a classroom environment … you don’t understand how important that is until it’s taken away. People have been very welcoming to me, reaching out, and saying that if I need anything to just tell them. It’s a sense of community and at-home feeling. I definitely appreciate it.”

The welcome students receive help with the transition to college, according to Kimbrough.

“The transition to college, especially only being here for a day when everyone moved in last week, has been hard navigating, getting around, getting all logged in on everything, and getting used to everything, Kimbrough said. “I know it’ll be a process, but with the help of everyone, it should be smoother.”

The faculty and staff have noticed the change in atmosphere as well. They are keen to help students in any way possible. Yvonne Longstreth, an employee at Pine Market in Brooks, has seen vast positive changes compared to last year.

“It’s been very positive,” Longstreth said, “A lot of people come in smiling, they’re happy to get back to a little bit of normal. Back to sports, back to student events on campus, back to coming down to the dining hall and sitting down with all their friends. It’s been very positive so far.”