Students voice their concerns as UT returns to campus

Michelle Facio, Life & Arts General Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the August 25 flipbook. 

Colin Spalten spent most of his junior year in front of a Zoom screen, wrapped in a blanket and wearing his pajamas. Now, as the University moves to in-person classes, he faces new obstacles.

“I think there’ll be a challenge getting used to actually being in a room with people, not just being on my computer all day staring at Zoom screens,” the radio-television-film senior said.

After a year of online classes and isolation, many students have concerns about readjusting to their new in-person lifestyles, especially when the pandemic is far from over. 

Physics senior Richard Najera said he feels anxious about the possibility of COVID-19 spreading on campus.

“I have two classes with more than 40 students,” Najera said. “It makes me nervous because I don’t know where my classmates were last night, if they have been COVID conscious, or if they are vaccinated or not.”

Besides feeling safe from contracting the virus, Najera said online classes helped improve his concentration.

“I kind of enjoyed online schooling as opposed to in person,” Najera said. “I feel like there’s less distractions.” 

Because neuroscience sophomore Isabella Sanchez never experienced on-campus class life, she worries about getting lost and not knowing building locations.

“I don’t really know how to navigate this campus as an in-person student,” Sanchez said. “So that might stress me out for a little while, and that might make my mental health a little shaky.” 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 20% of college students say the pandemic worsened their mental health. Many found the change to virtual life difficult. Now, after more than a year online, students face mental health challenges while readapting to an in-person lifestyle.

Katy Redd, associate director of prevention, development and media relations at the Counseling and Mental Health Center, said students should show support to each other while adjusting.

“There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach for anybody, but something that could be helpful is to simply acknowledge and accept that this can be a tricky time and to not expect yourself to have it all together,” Redd said. 

Redd said that attending CMHC support groups, such as Re-entry: Transitioning into School Post-Virtual Life, can be a good way for students to hear from peers also struggling with similar issues. This particular group meets on Tuesdays from 3-4:30 p.m. 

As for Sanchez, she plans on giving herself personal days throughout the semester to help ease the transition.

“One thing quarantine really gave me is alone time, (which) I don’t get much of,” Sanchez said. “I’m definitely going to be giving myself those simple pleasures.”