After a full year of hybrid and remote learning due to COVID-19, Wellesley welcomed students back on campus again this semester. New to campus this year were not just first-years and transfers, but also current sophomores who were remote for their first year, who have finally been able to meet their classmates and go to classes in person. Ella Xiao ’24 expressed how she felt more connected to the community this year than she did virtually.
“Last year, I honestly did not feel like I was actually a part of Wellesley,” Xiao said. “Classes online were great, but due to time zone differences and lack of social activities, I felt like Wellesley was still something far away, and I was feeling like an individual that was lost in the middle of nowhere. But this year, everyone is back on campus, and I love how all students, including myself, are bonding with each other and rebuilding a community through campus-wide activities.”
Virtual learning was not ideal for students who had to abruptly return home when the College first implemented remote learning. Emily Hur ’22 decided to take a gap year after her junior year, as virtual learning and interactions were not what she wanted for her last few semesters at Wellesley.
“When the pandemic started in the middle of my junior year, we were sent back to our homes that semester,” Hur said. “It was not a great experience because of the time difference since I live in Asia, and learning materials from Zoom was not very productive or efficient, especially because we had no chance to directly approach professors and classmates. I think that was the reason why I decided to take a gap year since I thought I was not learning as much as I would have in-person on campus, and I wanted to wait until the situation got better for my senior year.”
Wendy* Wellesley ’23 commented on how she lost motivation and struggled with feeling mentally isolated without seeing her friends and classmates in person.
“I was having a hard time fighting with loneliness during the period of remote learning,” she said. “I tried to keep myself motivated, but merely waking up and logging on to online classes constantly made me feel down and stay in bed all day. I was missing the daily routine and schedule that I had on campus, including the small things that kept me motivated, like having breakfast and lunch with friends, talking to classmates in a classroom, and on-campus activities where I could actually interact and meet people.”
With the various COVID-19 regulations applied on campus, many have been cautiously adjusting to this new post-pandemic environment.
“There were definitely more wide-scale events going on before the pandemic started,” Hur said. “Right now, there are more limitations, and even if you go to an event, there is definitely a lot of anxiousness since people have to be more careful in a crowded area. In terms of classes, professors had office hours where we could actually go to their office, but most of my professors now have Zoom office hours. I think it was better to talk to professors in-person, which helped to get to know each other better, but regarding the situation now, there’s no [other] choice for everyone’s safety.”
While following COVID-19 protocols, student organizations and the College have been making efforts to bring students together through different events, building a sense of community again where each student can feel like they belong on campus.
“There are definitely challenges because I’m entering the campus for the first time and self-navigating,” Xiao said. “But I feel like many of us bonded together over these hardships since we went through it together starting from last year. I feel supported being back to the community that everyone is building towards.”
*Name changed to protect student’s privacy