As Loyola’s campus comes back to life, some students are facing unique challenges returning to on-campus learning after spending more than a year completing classes online. For sophomore Stephanie Heuss, coming to campus means learning in-person for the first time since high school.
“I still feel like a freshman,” commuter student Heuss said. “But after missing out on graduation and prom, it’s so cool to be on campus, see people talking to their friends, and walking to classes.”
In March of 2020, Loyola shifted all of its classes online as the COVID-19 pandemic ramped up. By the spring semester of 2021, the university offered a hybrid learning experience for some classes, with a mix of online and in-person meetings, The Phoenix reported.
With campus returning to full operation, vaccination is required for all students and faculty returning to campus – except for those who received a medical or religious exemption.
Although students look forward to re-entering the classroom, many still feel unfamiliar with the structure of college classes.
“It’s intimidating when you don’t know what to expect from in-person college classes,” Heuss said.
To help students orient themselves on campus, Loyola planned a Welcome Week with several activities for new and returning students to find ways to get involved on campus and socialize. Specifically for sophomores, Loyola’s Second-Year Sunday gave students the opportunity to take part in Loyola traditions like walking through the famed green doors of Cudahy Library and attending their own welcome session in the Gentile Arena.
First-year student Turell Tate said he prefers in-person life far more than online life through the pandemic.
“I love in-person classes,” Tate said. “It allows me to do more with my time and allows me to have a dedicated space for learning with no distractions.”
Tate grew up in Memphis and said moving to Chicago and being on campus felt both exciting and nerve-wracking.
“At first it was a culture shock,” Tate said. “Memphis is very rural compared to the bustle of Chicago.”
Sophomore Amy Burkett said she thinks returning to the classroom and building relationships with professors will be beneficial to her learning experience.
“One thing I’m looking forward to with in-person classes is getting to know my professors,” Burkett said. “I know a lot of people who have made such strong connections with their professors and that’s so hard to get on Zoom.”
Some professors shared this sentiment in regaining personal relationships with each other in the classroom.
Communication Studies Program Director and professor Elizabeth Lozano said she feels grateful to re-enter the classroom environment since it lends to creating more developed relationships between her and students.
“Your entire body gets ready for the space and you’re able to completely change your mindset when physically in a classroom,” Lozano said. “Education is best when people have community rather than competition with people they do not know.”
Outside of the classroom, students have the opportunity to find community through becoming involved in some of Loyola’s 250 clubs and organizations.
Tate especially looks forward to becoming involved with on-campus organizations.
“I’ll join as many singing clubs as possible and get involved with intramural sports,” said Tate.
At least a thousand students attended the organization fair where sports teams, art clubs, social justice organizations, and other clubs tabled to get students interested in campus communities, according to Student Activities and Greek Life (SAGA).