Students gather in Packard Hall to attend an in-person class. In class, students and professors must wear masks and remain socially distanced to prevent the spread of COVID-19.(Nora Thomson/B&W Staff)

Students share outlooks on a COVID-restricted spring semester

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With the start of the spring 2021 semester, students are adjusting to new classes, a dynamic yet different campus life and a variety of restrictions. 

Having already experienced Zoom classes and COVID-19 restrictions in the fall, students have different outlooks on the spring 2021 semester.

Nicole Sparacio, ‘21, said after last semester, she feels “burnt out.”

“Both emotionally and mentally, I am drained from last semester,” Sparacio said. “I think it is from being on Zoom all the time.” 

Sparacio said she has one in-person class this semester. She said she is happy about the opportunity to be in-person and feels it is a nice break from her remote classes. 

Sparacio said the one thing she wants during this semester is to be able to attend that class and have it not get shut down. 

 “I just really want that stability,” Sparacio said. 

Josh Brandes, ‘21, said he has gotten used to the online learning environment and feels that online classes are easier to fit into an every day schedule. Like Sparacio, he also has one in-person class this semester. 

Brandes said because of how familiarized he became with Zoom classes during the pandemic, his in-person class felt strange.

“I am still not really used to interacting with people in large groups, with people I don’t know,” Brandes said. 

Sharing her own thoughts about this semester’s academics, Cate Droogan, ‘24, said she feels  more prepared to handle her classes this semester in comparison to the fall. 

“I think it will be more manageable because I will be able to expect my workload,” Droogan said. “I don’t think I will be as overwhelmed with the amount of work I have.”

Droogan said she utilizes the libraries often to get schoolwork done and was upset when both temporarily closed last semester due to an increase in campus COVID-19 cases.

Droogan said when they shut down, she lost motivation.

Droogan said she is hoping that more in-person events will happen this semester, even if they are distanced. 

“I did yoga on the lawn last semester, which was so fun,” Droogan said. “I hope they do more of that kind of stuff. It really helps.”

Differing from the fall, the beginning of the spring semester has been welcomed by snow and low temperatures. Melina Cawley, ‘23, thinks the winter months will be more challenging for the student body because of the weather. 

Cawley said that she misses going to the library and being surrounded by big groups of people. 

Sparacio said she misses seeing friends on campus when walking to class. 

Chuchu Li, ‘22, said she misses seeing her friends around campus as well as she is studying in Guangzhou, China, remotely this semester.

“I feel like I have no social activities, but it is good to stay with my family,” Li said. 

Li said the time difference between China and Bethlehem is not convenient. Her latest class ends at 2:55 a.m. China Standard Time. 

Li said she struggles the most with the timing of her exams. She said it is hard to concentrate in the middle of the night as she is tired.

“I wish Lehigh could make another time for international students to take exams,” Li said. 

Li said she expected to be used to online classes by this point, but is still not adjusted fully. 

Conversely, Noor Baban, ‘22, said she feels more familiar with and prepared for navigating online classes this semester after having online classes in the fall. 

“I feel a little better about this semester in comparison to last semester,” Baban said. “I do think that people will be more aware of how easy it is to get sick and how fast things can deteriorate.” 

Baban volunteers at Lehigh’s surveillance testing sites as a member of Lehigh University Emergency Medical Services. She said she is “pleasantly surprised” at how efficient and organized the process is. 

“I really like how they are testing everyone this semester, including those that are fully remote,” Baban said. 

Sparacio, Brandes, Droogan and Cawley all think that Lehigh expanding its testing for this semester is smart. 

“I thought that the testing last semester was absolutely awful,” Droogan said. “I was only tested twice last semester. In order to stop COVID from spreading, they need to be testing people.” 

Seniors, especially, are struggling with how their final semester at Lehigh is playing out. 

Brandes, being a senior, said that an online graduation would be “pretty upsetting.” He hopes that there is an in-person commencement ceremony, even if there are regulations and protocols in place. 

Brandes said the current situation makes it hard for him to accomplish everything he has not done yet as a student.

“The situation is definitely getting in the way of that,” Brandes said. “It is bittersweet.” 

Sparacio also said this semester is bittersweet as a senior.

“Walking around campus is sad,” Sparacio said. “You remember how it was prior to everything and you miss it. You miss seeing your friends walking to class and having a routine. It is sad knowing that it will never be like that again.” 

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