Why I came back to campus after being remote

Thought bubbles about the risks of in-person learning surround a concerned student
Illustration by Sofia Reeves

When I left campus amid the initial panic of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, I had no idea it would be 10 months until I would see Lewis & Clark in person again. Now, all this time later, being back in person after a fully-remote semester feels surreal. With the semester well underway, I still find myself wondering if I made the right call. Though my decision to return to campus was complicated and difficult, I ultimately feel as though I made the best choice I could given the bizarre circumstances. 

I was lucky to have the option to live at my parents’ house and complete all my classes online for the end of the Spring 2020 semester, and the entire Fall 2020 semester as well. I chose to remain home because, frankly, I was scared about returning to campus. The thought of attending in-person classes and living in the dorms when COVID-19 was still brand new was terrifying to me. 

Taking online classes is not ideal, which was one of the biggest reasons why I decided to return in person this semester. Like many of my peers, I struggled to focus on my classes and make connections with others. Being completely isolated took a huge toll on both my mental health and my grades. I have never felt so unmotivated to complete schoolwork and engage with friends. 

In part, my choice to come back to campus was driven by pure desperation to try to recapture any semblance of the college experience I had enjoyed before the pandemic. 

But despite its downsides, being at home did give me a sense of security and confidence in my safety against the virus, which is something I no longer feel so confident about since I have returned. From the emails of community members testing positive to the numbers of cases and deaths still rising all over the country, the danger is very real. 

When I first arrived on campus, though I knew things would not be the same, it took some time to adjust to the added complications and concerns created by attending college during a pandemic. Though precautions like the campus-wide COVID-19 testing, cohorted in-class schedules, social distancing and masking make me feel a lot safer, I do know that I am putting myself at significantly more risk by deciding to come back to school. 

The risks and differences in experiences, however, are offset for me by the many positive aspects of my return to campus. I have been able to spend time with friends for the first time in months and I have even gotten to know some new people, something I found virtually impossible while fully remote. With most of my classes having

in-person components, I feel significantly more engaged and motivated to do more work and fully participate in my learning. Back on campus, I feel my sense of independence returning, and I feel like I am living my life more fully. 

By returning to school, I am perhaps chasing a sense of normalcy that simply does not exist anymore. I am also driven by simple technicalities, like a desire to fulfill my two-year on-campus housing requirement, and the fact that I can clock in more hours at my job if I am in person. And despite the fact that I find myself constantly second-guessing my choice, in the end, I feel like I made the right decision for myself. My personal, academic and social lives have all taken a turn for the better since I have been back, and in my constant mental list of pros and cons, that is a big pro. Nothing will be the same as it was before for a long time, and that is both scary and disheartening. Yet, by choosing to come back to campus, I took charge of a part of my life that I can control, and it is not a choice I regret.

This article presents opinions held by the author, not those of The Pioneer Log and its editorial board.

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