After more than a year of remote instruction, UC Berkeley finally announced its plans for a fully in-person fall 2021 semester, leaving many students with a mixture of excitement and dread. As a rising junior who spent my sophomore year in my childhood home all the way across the country in North Carolina, I’ve only had roughly a year’s worth of a true UC Berkeley experience. Nevertheless, the impending return to campus has inspired me to reminisce on aspects of college life that I miss dearly. Here are six things I’m looking forward to — and vow to never take for granted again — as we prepare for an in-person academic year!
A quintessential element of the American college experience, gamedays are a time for UC Berkeley students to don blue and gold and display their school spirit as they cheer the Bears to victory. With Memorial Stadium going back to full capacity this football season, gamedays are sure to make a comeback in our lives. Although a year of remote learning has dampened the connection we feel with each other as students, gamedays have the potential to revive the sentiments of community and solidarity that we miss.
Let’s face it, club socials are just not as fun on Zoom. Though I admire efforts to build rapport and connection among club members while in quarantine, getting to know someone through a pixelated screen can be tiring and underwhelming, especially after a long day of staring at that same screen for classes. The return of in-person club socials means the return of parties, nice dinners, day trips to San Francisco, ski trips to Lake Tahoe and much more!
There is something about the smell of coffee, old books and the palpable focus of others around you in a library or cafe that hits different. It’s a sort of “collective grind” that is both soothing and inspiring, motivating me to stay productive and focused on my assignments. I’m ready to spend the whole day studying at Moffitt or Caffè Strada with a group of friends, where we can all hold each other accountable for our work, while also providing comic relief during intermittent study breaks.
While we may have taken it for granted prior to the pandemic, eye contact is an extremely vital social skill that remote learning has left difficult to practice and develop. The eye contact that comes from face-to-face interaction builds trust and connection between peers and professors, making you feel like you’re talking to a real person rather than a robot. Personally, I believe that talking to people, or listening to others speak via Zoom made me feel more disengaged, disconnected and self-conscious than before. Often, I found myself looking at my own face when I, or another person, spoke rather than making eye contact with the face on the other side of the screen. I’m ready to have conversations with others where we can make real eye contact with each other, and rather than obsess over my physical appearance, I can actually focus on what they have to say to me.
Wi-Fi worry? Gone!
The stress of taking a midterm or final during remote learning hits even harder when worries about whether your internet connection is stable enough, or if it’ll go out right as you’re about to submit the exam, are added to the mix. In the same vein, I also found myself less likely to raise my hand to confidently ask or answer a question because I was afraid that my audio sounded too wonky, or my Wi-Fi would cut out mid-sentence, and that type of embarrassment wasn’t something I wanted to subject myself to. But with the return of in-person classes, such concerns will no longer be valid! We can actually talk, bounce ideas off of one another and submit exams on time without being subject to the whims of our home Wi-Fi setup.
Walking down Sproul Plaza on a Friday afternoon at the start of a semester meant a cacophony of activity: Almost every square inch was covered by clubs tabling to recruit members, raise money for their respective causes or stir up awareness for an issue of importance. The energy was invigorating — a frenzy of posters, crowds, tempting treats, interrogating questions, flyers, magazines and newspapers shoved in your face. While this may sound like an unpleasant sensory overload to some, being engulfed in that type of environment made me feel like I was part of something greater than myself — an ambitious, striving student community — that I’m looking forward to experiencing again.
This might be a controversial one, but I actually miss getting ready and dressing up for class in the mornings. Sure, it’s been fun to roll out of bed 10 minutes before lecture starts, wearing nothing but sweatpants and a coffee-stained T-shirt, but I miss the ability to be creative and experiment with my style. I’m a firm believer in the idea that how you dress impacts how you feel. For example, I know that I’m going to be far more productive and confident if I dress in an elegant manner rather than staying in my pajamas all day. I want to once again experience the fun of putting an outfit together and having an established morning routine that leaves me feeling more organized, efficient and ready to tackle the day.
Though remote learning came with its fair share of perks, it’s worth considering all the advantages of the return to an in-person format this coming fall. Whether you loved Zoom or hated it, hopefully the 2021-22 academic year can be a time of healing, innovation, renewal and growth for our campus community.