Student guinea pig during COVID-19 in-person class

Joy Webb

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Sept. 9, 2020

The first day of class is usually stressful. The first day of class during a pandemic was especially stressful, but it was also something I never thought I would experience.  

     Prior to COVID-19, I registered to take a fall 2020 pre-term course. Geology 1010 with Eric Billmeyer was my last general-ed requirement, and it fulfilled my Natural Science credit requirement.  

     As a senior who plans to graduate in May 2021, I could not drop this credit if I wanted to stay on track, even though I knew I would have to take it during this unprecedented time.  

     On the first day, I drove to campus reluctant about attending. In past years at UCCS, I usually drove to campus anxious, but excited for what I was going to learn. This time I was anxious and genuinely scared, because I did not know what to expect or if I was putting myself at risk.  

     I parked on the vacant UCCS campus and walked into Columbine, which was also empty. Upon entering the classroom, I immediately saw a lot of eyes, but no faces. Everyone was wearing a mask, and I could feel the tension in the room. We were all spaced six-feet apart, and so I struggled to find an open seat to sit down in, eventually settling for one in the back.  

A college student taking notes in class.
Photo by Allison Moix. Courtesy of UCCS Photography Database.

     I was initially excited to have at least one in-person class to have some human contact that had been lacking in my life for the previous six months. But how could I get to know someone when I could not even see their face and could barely hear what they were saying? 

     I realized that face-coverings, while necessary, completely changed how human beings interacted and communicated, with facial cues being almost entirely eliminated. Professor Billmeyer, I could tell, was also hesitant and anxious about this class since we were the first class to be in-person after the shutdown in spring.  

     In that moment, I felt for our professors. Students are not the only ones facing uncertainty about the fall semester. When I signed a waiver that basically stated that UCCS was not liable for anything including death, I realized how unparalleled these circumstances were. 

     When I wanted to shake someone’s hand, lend them a pencil or pass in a paper, I thought about the implications of these minute actions that I had never thought twice about before. It was extremely hard to learn, when there was a virus looming over my head for those eight days in my pre-term class.  

     I still wish that all my classes were in-person. Learning online, in my opinion, is relatively impossible, especially as an English and philosophy major. Both disciplines operate from discussion and connection, which is lacking in the online environment. No matter how wonderful my professors are, and how much effort they are putting into making this semester as satisfactory as possible, I am still not learning the way that I should be.  

     There are online classes with 80 students, who stare at a screen with a professor simply speaking at them. I have had minimal interaction in my online courses, except for some introduction and getting to say a sentence here and there. It is heart-breaking that this is how my college education will come to an end. 

     Although everyone is doing the best they can and there is no real solution, I think it is important to acknowledge these differences and struggles, instead of trying to ignore them. We must be understanding and empathetic toward everyone trying to cope in this situation, because we are all just doing the best that we can. 

     Thank you to the UCCS professors and faculty that are working so hard to make sure that we still receive an adequate education. Thank you to my peers that are trying their best to learn and work in a time when we are constantly reminded of the uncertainty that we face.