Yale Daily News

Ten months ago, University President Peter Salovey detailed plans to welcome a portion of the undergraduate student population back on campus for the Fall 2020 semester. In his email to the undergraduate community, Salovey noted that the overwhelming majority of classes would be conducted via Zoom for the 2020-2021 academic year. Now as the semester nears an end, students reflect on the past academic year with remote classes. 

All six undergraduate students interviewed by the News expressed feelings of tiredness resulting from significantly lower social interactions,  Zoom fatigue and a lack of breaks.

“I thought this semester was pretty intense and difficult … All in all, it did not feel ideal,” Hudson Patterson ’22 said. “I felt like there was a lot of time consuming work that I had to do [including] an unrealistic amount of reading. It was just hard to stare at a screen during classes and then continue staring at a screen while doing my readings.” 

Patterson also experienced disappointment at the substantial reduction in both academic and social offerings on campus, noting that the idea that one third of his college experience has taken place since the start of the pandemic feels “frightening.”

Lydia Chun ’23 echoed similar sentiments. For Chun, her dissatisfaction with online learning in the fall led her to take a gap semester during the spring.

“I just didn’t think I wanted to waste my college experience on Zoom because what has made college so special has been the people that I met,” Chun said. “You don’t get a whole lot of human interaction over Zoom.”

Additionally, several students felt disappointed by the administration’s decision to eliminate spring break this semester in favor of a delayed start date and the incorporation of five break days into the academic calendar.

Christian Martinez Contreras ’23, who is also a business staffer at the News, expressed that break days did not constitute enough of a rest, stating that “definitely a full spring break would have been better.”

This academic year was also marked by a significant reduction in the amount of students living on campus. While juniors and seniors were allowed to remain in residence throughout the entire academic year, first years and sophomores were invited back to campus for one semester, unless they were granted an exemption. There was a significant increase in the number of juniors and seniors who opted to live off campus in New Haven this year, as well as a sizable number of students of all class years who chose to complete either all or part of the year remotely.

Despite the frustration caused by remote learning, returning to campus provided some undergraduates with the opportunity to reconnect with friends and acquaintances. 

Zia Tollette ’24 expressed a general feeling of loneliness, but did note that being in-residence opened up the possibility to stay in touch with her community members. 

“Whenever I could find time to see somebody new that I’m not consistently around in my residential college, those were probably my favorite moments,” Tollette said.  

Chayton Pabich ’21 told the News that though the remote year was difficult, he enjoyed seeing how everyone “worked to make everything happen.” For example, Pabich, a theater and performance studies major, was able to perform his thesis this spring.

Several students also reported that public health concerns, as well as the ensuing economic downfall caused by the pandemic, resulted in an addition of unforeseen stressors.  

Raisha Waller ’22 explained that having to worry about her family or contracting COVID-19 and spreading it was “difficult to handle alongside schoolwork.” 

Salovey announced that instruction during the 2021-2022 academic year is set to take place in-person, should public health conditions allow it.  As the current academic year comes to a close, all six students interviewed expressed that they are looking forward to the coming academic year as well as the return of in-person instruction. 

Minji Park’23 noted that she is looking forward to being back on campus.

“I feel like I took the learning spaces for granted,” Park said.

Classes for the 2021-2022 academic year are set to begin on Sept. 1.