Redbird students returned to campus August 16 with the onset of the fall semester. While some classes were held in-person last school year, most students spent the academic year virtually due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Their return was part of Illinois State’s plan to allow students to return to a more traditional college experience while following the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), and other governmental and public health agencies.
We spoke to some upper-class students about what they’re looking forward to now that they are back on campus.
Laura Schulze, senior, social work
Laura Schulze is looking forward to attending university Athletics events. It was something she and other students largely missed out on this past year as many games were closed to fans.
“That was something that I always did freshman and sophomore year with my friends and roommates. Being able to do that again is super exciting,” she said.
She is also ready to make new friends and celebrate her senior year.
“Being back in the classroom is interesting, and I was a little nervous because I lost an entire year of college,” Schulz said. “I don’t feel like a senior at all but I’m excited to get back into the classroom and meet new people.”
Hailey Storm, first-year graduate student, school psychology
Hailey Storm is excited to be back, but the yearlong break from being on campus has made this year’s return like no other.
“(Being back on campus) feels normal but weird at the same time, considering I haven’t been here for a year. It feels like everything’s back to normal, but at the same time, everyone’s in masks. It also feels weird to be in the classroom again,” Storm said.
Despite the general lack of normalcy this year, she feels that being back in person will be beneficial in her success as a student.
“It was hard to focus online, doing asynchronous things,” Storm said. “There would be video lectures, and I’d listen to it more like a podcast than actually paying attention, so I think in-person is way better for me to be able to learn.”
Shabaan Hossain, first-year graduate student, business administration
Shabaan Hossain’s primary focus this year is getting through the remainder of his studies without any hiccups.
He is also looking forward to getting involved on campus. In addition to finding a registered student organization (RSO) that suits his interests, Hossain would like to attend some of the events hosted by the University.
“Especially sports,” Hossain said. “If we have any events, I would love to take part in them.”
Sydney Taylor, senior, social work
For Sydney Taylor, returning to campus means being able to experience a more well-rounded college lifestyle.
“I’m looking forward to getting the whole college experience of going to games, having parties, and hanging out with friends,” Taylor said.
Taylor also shared her thoughts on transitioning into working away from campus. She said that though she was able to work well at home, she still missed her student life.
“My transition was pretty easy because I had a really great support system from home,” Taylor said. “And it was nice to have that, but I would’ve loved to been on campus last semester.”
Daniel Debine, senior, interpersonal communications
One of the primary downsides of virtual learning for Daniel Debine was being unable to connect with his peers.
This year, he hopes to become involved on campus and take back the experiences he missed in order to enjoy his senior year.
“I’m really excited about being back in the classrooms with other people. All my classes were online last year, so I didn’t really get any social interactions,” Debine said. “Being virtual felt like I was missing out on the actual college experience, especially because I was a transfer student last year. This is my senior year, and this should be the year I get the real ISU experience.”
Jordan Bivins, junior, business administration
Jordan Bivins is ready to get back into the swing of being back on campus.
“It’s junior year, so I’m trying to lock back in,” Bivins said. “Because I’ve been online for like a year and a half, and we’ve been in that mode of being locked into our computers, so we haven’t been moving class to class, building to building.”
As excited as he is to get back to work, Bivins admits that returning to the campus has felt reminiscent of his earlier years at Illinois State.
“I didn’t know where which hall was. I had to go look on the map,” Bivins said. “Being in the classroom setting, it feels like I’m going to school all over again. I feel like I’m starting all over again.”
Matthew Borowski, senior, childhood education
Staying focused while studying at home proved to be difficult for other students as well. Matthew Borowski believes that being back in the classroom will keep him on task.
“You very easily get distracted when you’re online, and I can confirm throughout my semesters, at least last year, the mind wanders, so it’s a lot better to be in person,” Borowski said.
For many students, online learning made it difficult to meet new people, so for Borowski, interacting with others face to face has been a highlight of in-person classes and on-campus living, not only for making friends but also for growing connections.
“Being in person, at least because I was a transfer student, has been a lot easier to make friends than over Zoom because, of course, you’d only meet people online. Honestly, it feels really nice to be back. It’s good to see a lot of people actually out and moving,” Borowski said. “Throughout my years I’ve learned it’s always good to have a large network, so if you’re in trouble you can always be like, ‘Oh I know this guy, I went to college with him,’ and you’ll have a really large network that can help you grow.”
Kira Brinkley, junior, music
As a transfer student, Kira Brinkley was not given the chance to attend larger campus events at her community college. Now that school is back in session, she is excited to see her peers in person and cheer on sports teams alongside other Redbirds.
“I’m just looking forward to interacting with other people and getting to go to sporting events—fingers crossed,” Brinkley said. “My community college didn’t really have any sports and stuff, so I’m excited for that.”