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On the first day of fall classes at the University of Michigan, instead of rushing to make it to class on time, masked students sat spaced apart on the Diag, enjoying the sunshine in between Zooming into an online class.
This included Business sophomore Simon Nejman, who said he plans to spend more time outdoors to combat Zoom fatigue.
“It’s a bit harder to focus on Zoom than I anticipated, and I already knew just from sitting down all morning that I needed to get outside,” Nejman said.
Business and Kinesiology sophomore Ben Taboga said he is also trying to limit his screen time.
“I went for a run this morning, so I am trying to stay active in the time that I am not looking at a screen and making sure I’m getting a lot of sun,” Taboga said. “But we’ll see what happens when it gets colder.”
More than 68 percent of all credit hours are online. LSA senior Arun Massand, who has all online classes, said he is a bit upset that his last fall semester at the University will be unusual. However, he said he plans to make the best of it.
“I’m kind of sad that this is our senior year,” Massand said. “But I think it is going to be okay, and I think teachers are going to be accommodating, too.”
Being on campus and with a regular schedule to keep up with, LSA freshman Aditi Vijendra said she felt more productive than usual. She said she is proud of even the small tasks she has accomplished so far.
“I’m feeling pretty on top of it today because usually, I’ve been waking up at 11 (a.m.),” Vijendra said. “But I had a lecture at 9 (a.m.), so I woke up and ran and got a lot of stuff done.”
LSA freshman Ayla Kaufman said she feels less overwhelmed by her courses than she thought she would be. She said she believes this is partly due to the unprecedented circumstances of this semester.
“The syllabus clears things up, and I thought it was going to be like an overwhelming amount of work and it’s definitely not, it’s just a different type of work,” Kaufman said. “There are more assignments, but my suspicion is that it is not indicative of what college usually is. It’s more of what ‘pandemic college’ is.”
Vijendra said she is still getting used to having more autonomy being away at college for the first time. She said this adjustment is even more pronounced than in a usual year because she has mostly asynchronous classes.
“I think a lot more is left up to us than I would’ve expected,” Vijendra said. “Instead of having to go to a lecture from 2 to 3 (p.m.), you get to choose what time you watch your lecture, which is both good and bad because it gives you a little bit more freedom to play around with your schedule, but at the same time there’s nothing forcing you to do it.”
Kaufman said she is having a hard time finding a space to study because residence hall common areas are closed and most libraries have reduced capacity requirements.
“The biggest struggle is just that you have to study in your room and do class from your room, and I really struggle with that because I don’t usually work well when I’m in my bedspace,” Kaufman. “We’re going to study in the (Michigan) Union a lot hopefully.”
Engineering senior Hustin Cao said remote instruction will also make it harder to find friends to study with in his classes.
“The major component that is going to be different is forming groups and finding friends to do work with,” Cao said.
Many student organizations are being held remote-only this semester. Even if they are online, LSA senior Caitlin Do hopes participating in these events will be a good way to take time off from classes.
“Our cultural organization is hosting online events, so that’ll get us out of the mundane routine of classes and Zoom, (in-person) classes and Zoom,” Do said. “That will be a good way to get in touch with friends.”
Social Work students Savannah Stanciel and Meghan Banfield said their first in-person class today was a good experience overall.
“Our professor is very accommodating to all of our needs, very understanding and sweet,” Stanciel said. “We got some good lunch and met some new people, and everyone is social distancing.”
Though she felt safe in class, Banfield said she has mixed feelings about being back on campus. She said she feels more motivated on campus but believes the risk of infection is greater.
“Being at home is kind of a distraction sometimes, so being at school is like you’re more in the zone,” Banfield said. “But there are definitely times where you would feel safer at home.”
Daily Staff Reporter Celene Philip can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.