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Students struggle with emptiness on campus

By Celeste Krewson
Correspondent

The College’s campus is normally bustling with activity — as students hurry to class, meet with friends for a meal or find a quiet spot to study. A vibrant atmosphere has always permeated the campus, and that is part of what made college enjoyable for many students.

After attending courses completely remote last semester, many students were hoping to return to a familiar college life in the Spring 2021 semester. Social distancing measures and remote classes have made this difficult.

Students cope with a practically empty campus (Darby VanDeVeen / Photo Editor).

“I don’t have any in-person classes this year,” said sophomore English major, Julia Landi. “Mine are still all virtual. It is kind of weird to have 50% of the TCNJ in-person experience.”

Landi, who is currently living in Phelps Hall, will still make time to walk around campus and study at the library. However, she spends much more time in her room than she did pre-lockdown. She used to visit her friends in their rooms to relax or complete school work — which is not an option this semester.

For some students, friends are miles away.

“Of the people in my close friend group, all of them are currently learning remotely, and as such I am not able to meet them in person,” said junior sociology major Derek Tingle, who is currently living in Phelps Hall.

Some students prefer remote learning, but according to the Spring Flex Plan, select classes can be held in person.

“The main difference for in-person classes is the classroom size,” Tingle said. “A classroom that could once accommodate upwards of 30 students is now only limited to six due to the six-foot social distancing requirement. Instruction-wise it’s very similar, give or take a few minutes spent making sure that Zoom is set up properly for those learning remotely.”

For many students, taking classes remotely is either the easiest or only option available to them. This has led classes to be held with only one or two students physically present.

“Considering I’m the only one who comes in person right now, [the classes are] very different,” senior interactive multimedia major Vincent Terraneo, who currently lives in East Town House, said. “You can’t really have a traditional formal class meeting with only two people in the room, and since the class has a lot of independent work, it can sometimes end up just feeling like me and the professor.”

For those who head to class, even when they are not alone, they may run into difficulty completing work the same way they did before.

“Group work ends up being more difficult. Though remote learning gives groups more flexibility and tools, the lack of in-person meetings means everyone has to be much more active and intentional with communication, which isn’t easy,” Terraneo said.

There is a suggestion of restrictions easing up on campus. President Foster’s recent email announced that following the decrease in Covid-19 cases on campus, protocol may be adjusted to be less restrictive.

More spaces will be open on campus — such as the library’s Extended Study Area, as well as the Brower Student Center extending its hours. Students will also be able to have a single-masked resident in their room, as long as they reside in the same building.

“I’ve met up with a couple people besides my roommates,” Landi said. “I guess the biggest change is all the meet ups are outside, which wasn’t ideal in the beginning when it was cold, but it was still nice to see people. Even though I’ve still seen some people it’s definitely not as much as I would in a normal year.”

It has now been over a year since the pandemic hit. Campus looks much different from previous semesters, but some students are returning to a sense of normalcy with the option of in-person classes. Some, such as Terraneo, appreciate having at least one other person in the room during a class.

“Having that little bit of normalcy of talking with someone in person is very nice,” he said. “You end up appreciating little things like that after it being so rare over the past year.”

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