Excitement and inconsistency are the two main themes expressed by students returning to campus full-time after a tumultuous two years navigating COVID-19. The Brunswickan sat down with several students from different faculties and departments to get a finger on the pulse of the student body and how they feel about returning to campus full-time after two years of hybrid learning and alternative delivery.
Most students are excited to be back on campus and interacting with the university community. The engagement was a major point expressed by all students, but particularly those in more hands-on programs like Kinesiology.
Keaton Walls, first year Kinesiology student, finds learning on campus “way better, because I’m a visual learner and I can pay attention more.”
Another major factor in student excitement about returning to campus is social interaction. Sophia Cohen, a third-year History Honours student, who has spent the last three years on campus in residence said this year feels far less lonely.
“It felt like a desert sometimes, so it’s great to see people back and feel the energy,” Cohen said. This sentiment seems to ring true with much of the student body, as clubs and societies pick back up and the various departmental lounges fill with students.
Unsurprisingly, UNB COVID Policy and masking rules were a major point of conversation among students. Many feel that the masking rules imposed on campus are thoughtful but generally are defeated by social interactions off campus.
The general sentiment seems to be that the lack of masking requirements outside of campus—especially at social hotspots for students like bars and cafes—nullifies the use of masking on campus. However, students understand the University’s caution and do their best to follow the guidelines.
Some students observed that the masking policy is followed to varying degrees depending on the department and setting. A common point of failure for the masking policy is eating and drinking on campus.
There is also an element of COVID fatigue among the student body, as some students are unsure what the specific masking policy is in a given environment due to two and a half years of changing policy. However, despite some trepidation about specific COVID protocols, students are generally excited to be back on campus.
Efter two years of isolation and hybrid learning, COVID does not seem to have negatively impacted student behaviour on campus. Students are returning to departmental lounges, going to the Cellar, and whispering in the library.
“With the exception of everyone wearing masks every now and then, it’s pretty much business as usual,” said Walter Brouwer, a fourth-year History Honours student who experienced pre-pandemic UNB.
Ideally, this year will represent the status quo moving forward—observing a healthy amount of caution—as students navigate the ‘new normal’.