Butler students react to beginning their second on-campus semester during the pandemic

Butler students share their thoughts on beginning another semester during COVID-19. Collegian File Photo.

ELLIE ALLEN | NEWS EDITOR | emallen2@butler.edu

After two semesters impacted by COVID-19, Butler students now know roughly what to expect from the third. Since March 2020, students have faced different challenges academically and socially while also dealing with COVID-19 safety concerns. 

While some students feel better prepared for classes and COVID-19 expectations for the spring 2021 semester, others are anxious about the challenges they will face.

Academics

While most students have now adjusted to online and hybrid formats for classes, many have mixed feelings about entering a new semester academically.

Erin Mast, a junior arts administration major, said the lack of breaks last semester left her feeling burnt out, and she is nervous about another semester similar to that.

 “From a mental health perspective, it’s brutal,” Mast said. “[Last semester], I was kind of in the mindset of ‘I’ll take anything I can get. If I have to stay here with no breaks, that’s fine.’ Now, I know how hard it was last semester, and it’s more of a sense of dread. I’m still extremely grateful to be here and have this learning experience, but at the same time, I know I have to work a lot harder to maintain a good sense of mental health and self-care.”

Other students are feeling more prepared to face this semester after learning how to use different online formats. 

Alex Bandick, a senior digital media production major, said learning online has been a challenge, but he feels more prepared to do it after multiple semesters.

“Since we had a full semester under our belt where we did either a hybrid or a fully-online or partially in person, things this semester should be a lot more refined than the previous semesters,” Bandick said. “I’m feeling a lot better about this semester just because I’ve done it before, and everybody’s done it before, so it doesn’t feel as much of like a guinea pig phase. We can kind of like go forward with this new system that we’ve come up with.”

 According to a Butler Collegian Instagram poll with 141 respondents, 52% of respondents felt prepared for the semester academically, while 48% felt concerned. 

With many students split on how they feel about beginning a new semester, first-year marketing major Elle Fleenor is one student who is feeling more prepared. Fleenor said after her first semester of college, she has learned how to balance her academic work and schedule her days in a way that works best for her. 

“I feel like I understand how Zoom classes work,” Fleenor said. “Especially after last semester, I kind of know my study habits. I know my time management skills, and I’m able to kind of fit in place like how I want to study when I go to class, stuff like that.” 

Social

While some student organizations have been able to hold socially-distanced events, many have switched to virtual formats. This, combined with social distancing requirements, has left some students feeling cut off from their friends and the social part of college life. 

According to the Instagram poll with 144 respondents, 64% of respondents felt isolated while 36% felt connected.

Bandick said it has been difficult for him to reconfigure the social aspect of his senior year without all of the normal events. He also said cold weather has made it more challenging to see friends safely and has forced him to stay indoors.

“Early fall, when it was warm enough outside to go outside, it was a lot easier,” Bandick said. “Now that we’re getting into below-freezing [temperatures], and it’s starting to snow going outside, it’s a lot tougher, so it’s pretty much like you’re stuck inside, which is definitely a lot tougher than I would have expected.”

Fleenor also said she struggled with feeling isolated during the first semester. She said coming to college was a bit of a letdown because there was not a lot she was able to do, but after winter break, she reflected on ways she could improve her college experience.

“I came into the new semester with a new list of goals that I want to achieve,” Fleenor said. “I want to try new things, and I really want to step out of my comfort zone. I feel like with COVID things can get a little boring or a little standstill, and so I really just wanted to push myself and see how I can grow from there.”

On the other hand, Mast said she did not struggle socially very much because she already had established friendships at Butler.

“I kind of thrive in this small-circles social environment,” Mast said. “I really have a close group of friends, and I’ve kind of stuck with them this semester and last semester, and we all have a commitment to our personal health and safety.” 

COVID-19 Safety

This semester, most students are more prepared for Butler’s COVID-19 expectations, and many feel much safer returning to campus than they did last semester. 

Fleenor said she feels much more certain of the COVID-19 requirements and how they work than she did last semester. 

“Last year everything I did I was like, ‘oh my gosh, am I breaking a rule?’” Fleenor said. “Last semester was kind of about trial-and-error phase, but I’ve learned those rules. I’ve been accustomed to them. They’re like second nature to me.” 

According to the Instagram poll with 140 respondents, 61% of respondents feel safe this semester, while 39% feel at risk.

Mast is one student who feels safer being on campus this semester. She said last semester, she felt like everyone might have to leave campus any minute.

“I feel more secure in the sense that we’re going to stay here because we can make it work,” Mast said. “Butler has taken some new initiatives to do more frequent testing, which I appreciate, but I think there’s still a nervousness that comes with coming back to a campus full of people, but I feel pretty safe and comfortable being back here.”

Bandick, on the other hand, feels more uncertain with COVID-19 numbers continuing to rise nationally

“That climbing number still makes it a little unsafe and a little uneasy,” Bandick said. “No matter how hard you try to be safe, there’s always the chance that you can still get it.”

After switching to online learning in the first two weeks of the fall semester and dealing with rising cases across the country in November, students have mixed feelings about dealing with similar challenges this semester. Butler has attempted to address students’ concerns with a BUBeWell weekend to improve mental health, and by implementing testing for students every three weeks, to improve COVID-19 safety. However, only time will tell what this semester has in store and how it will impact students.

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