Campus is back to “normal”

Student feedback on fully in-person college life

Perris Larson, Staff Writer

Students Melat Tsehay, Mayra Carrion, Lupe Marcial, and Mia Ewing enjoying a social meal together at Gwinn. (Devin Murray)

It is like nothing has changed, but at the same time it is completely different.

Compared to last year, campus is bursting with life. Students spend time together in study lounges without any chairs taped off, and they can eat together in Gwinn without sitting six feet away from each other. Visitors are now allowed in dorms, and professors are teaching in-person to fully-masked students. Seeing students interact with each other normally is a sight that reminds fellow Falcons of life prior to the pandemic.

For many students, this is their first experience on campus. Last year, Seattle Pacific University gave students the option to live on campus, but many chose to stay at home. Over the past 18 months, online school became normal. Social distancing and limited campus events were normal. It was college, COVID-19 style.

Students had to adapt. Many chose to complete their courses from home while waiting for their college experience to eventually resume.

After spending three quarters doing all of her classwork online, junior Caitlyn Sio is relieved to be back on campus.

“Being away from home feels good, it feels good to finally have a break,” explained Sio. “Academically, it’s a bit challenging because we’re transferring from online to in-person, something we haven’t done in two years.”

In complete contrast to SPU’s previous fall quarter, students can be face-to-face with their classmates and professors. This year provides a chance for a close-knit community that is not limited to a computer screen.

Residential Advisor Esther Mutesi expressed that meeting other students and concentrating in classes were both difficult tasks last year, but she claimed that in-person activities have pros and cons as well.

“It’s nice to see so many people on campus again, but it’s hard to get back into in-person classes and actually focus in-person,” said Mutesi.

Virtual learning affected people mentally, academically and socially. Online classes were something that students had to accept as the new normal, however unnatural they may have felt.

“I pay more attention in my classes now, because I’m there [in person],” said Mutesi.

Last year, a lack of social life was apparent. Many students who lived in communal dorms did not even have a roommate, and they could only host masked visitors from their same floor. It was considered a luxury when one masked person was allowed in other dorm rooms.

The restrictions were put in place to protect students and faculty, but according to Residential Advisor and communications major Raven Vick, it became much more difficult to meet people because of the campus-wide protocols.

“If you didn’t have a tight friend group, you were by yourself, and that was something I had a hard time with,” said Vick. “I always had my door open, but no one was ever around.”

Other than their friends or floormates, certain students turn to clubs or groups on campus as ways to broaden their in-person social circles.

ASSP Treasurer Carrie Cox expressed how it is fun to be involved in campus leadership, but it is her first time having a semi-normal college experience.

“I think it’s funny, all the sophomores in leadership, we’ve never had a normal year on campus,” said Cox. “It’s our first time having a college experience, but we’re not first time students.”

SPU has been able to loosen the restrictions around campus due the campus-wide vaccine mandate. According to a recent email sent out by the Senior Leadership Council, 94 percent of the campus has been fully vaccinated. The vaccine rate on campus and the adherence to government policies seem to provide a safer environment for students and faculty.

“As long as people are cooperating with the mandates, then we’re perfectly fine, and I feel like that’s what SPU students have been doing,” said Sio.

For a time, COVID-19 changed the entire image of campus life, but SPU has created a plan for the school year that reinstates a sense of familiarity. Freshmen are walking into a normal SPU experience, and many upperclassmen feel as new and excited as first-years.

“It’s just an adjustment we have to get used to,” said Mutesi.