Students have mixed reactions to UW’s return to regular in-person instruction

Courtesy Heather Ecobichon

On Sept. 20, University of Waterloo students and faculty received a memo from administration proclaiming the return of in-person classes for the winter 2022 term. Now entirely in-person, UW will return to a form not seen for nearly two years. 

The promise of a return to “normal” came with a mixed bag of reactions from students, whose feelings ranged from excited to apprehensive. 

First-year arts student Ethan Blakey voiced worries regarding the sudden shift. “I’m totally down, but I bet there’ll be a lot more of a workload, and I’m not really excited for the in-person logistics,” he said, the latter regarding the new concern of navigating UW’s campus.  

Janetika Bolenthiran, a first-year health sciences student, expressed concerns about going back to the classroom as well. “I’m not used to it anymore because of COVID, and things like exams are also gonna [sic] feel so different because of the new environment,” she said. “I think already living on campus makes it feel not that much more different.” 

Throughout the pandemic, the lines between home and work or school became  increasingly blurred, with many people reporting feelings of decreasing productivity or worsening mental health. A survey by the Pew Research Center found that just over half of workers from the ages of 18 to 29 felt a lack of motivation to complete their work, stemming from several issues including a blending of their home and work environment and feeling a lack of proper communication with peers.

Although UW began re-introducing in-person classes and hybrid models throughout the fall 2021 term, this next step represents the most ambitious leap back to “normal” for many. Despite the news, the memo emphasized the importance of adhering to public health safety guidelines in order to continue this trend. 

To make this happen, we must remain vigilant as the fourth wave of the pandemic unfolds and play our part in limiting the spread of COVID-19. Please continue to follow mask-wearing, physical distancing and other public health instructions throughout this fall term,” it stated. 

For the fall 2021 term, UW required those in residence to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 17, and continues to implement mandatory COVID-19 symptom screenings via daily check-ins. Campus visitors must be vaccinated or present recent negative COVID-19 tests.

First-year math student Sebastian Milewski’s statement reflected common complaints throughout the online learning era. “I’m excited as long as everything’s safe and as long as I don’t have to take any more asynch [sic] classes,” he said. Several students also expressed their excitement at the turnaround for other reasons. Ana Maharana, a first-year arts and business student, mentioned that being on residence without any in-person classes made being on campus feel rather pointless. Maharana stated, “I want to have a class in person because all the classes are online, so it’s like I’m in res [sic] for no reason.” 

Jenny Hu, a first-year architecture student, also pointed out the confusion online classes can bring, stating, “We’re already doing hybrid, and sometimes it’s hard to find information about class online. But it’s nice being in person and having access to school materials.”

As students begin to weigh their choices and prepare for course selection for the upcoming term, there will no doubt be a range of emotions in the air over the choice to move to in-person classes for the winter 2022 term. Overall, despite some concerns, many students are looking forward to getting back in the classroom and taking the next step in their university careers.