A beginning is often thought of as something new, but the 2021 spring semester could be just the same as the previous two.
With COVID-19 remaining a factor in the new year, returning students, like junior public relations major Kristen Mirabelli, are prepared for any possibility the pandemic might bring.
“My hope for things to get back to normal is strong, but there’s a part of me that knows it won’t happen fast,” she said.
Ball State University prepared for the spring by requiring students to submit a negative COVID-19 test result prior to returning to campus Jan. 19. This requirement differs from last semester, when the university gave on-campus students the option to submit a negative test result or prove a 14-day quarantine. Mirabelli said she appreciated this effort.
“I believe that the university had good intentions requiring a COVID-19 test in order to provide the most safety for their students,” she said.
Freshman psychology major Avery Dobson said she is also glad testing was made a requirement prior to returning this semester.
After Dobson’s first semester on campus was affected by COVID-19, she was surprised to be able to finish her first year in person while living in her dorm.
“When I heard I was able to come back, I was very excited,” she said. “I was ready to come back to school.”
Freshman computer science major Noah Prez said he was also ready to ease into his second semester on campus.
“I definitely don’t feel as stressed or anxious like I was the first semester,” he said.
For Prez, the spring semester is looking just like the fall semester, minus club sports.
“It’s disappointing because I wanted to join club volleyball, but due to COVID-19, there will not be a season,” he said. “Otherwise, it just feels like another school year to me.”
For students living on campus, the move-in process was not the easiest, Mirabelli said. As a resident assistant (RA) for Woodworth Complex, she said her residents faced challenges returning to their dorms.
“I had many residents who had trouble moving in because the [Ball State] website [redirected] them or Housing took too long to approve their [COVID-19] test,” she said.
Mirabelli also noticed a decline in the number of residents living in her residence hall this semester due to the pandemic.
“Every day, I check my RA roster, and more and more residents are dropping out simply because this isn’t the Ball State they heard about,” she said.
The return to campus did not impose any pressing new COVID-19 guidelines — all rules for students and faculty have remained the same or fairly similar. In Dobson’s eyes, the only difference is her course load.
“The pandemic is still going on,” she said. “The rules, for the most part, are the same, but my friends and I have more in-person classes.”
Ball State University’s website advertises that the safety of students and faculty is its top priority.
“We continue to focus our efforts on the safety of our campus community,” the website states.
Dobson said she values the precautions Ball State is taking to ensure the well-being of all who are on campus.
“I’m not upset about the guidelines,” she said. “I think they’re there for a reason, and they should be.”
Mirabelli has also adjusted to the guidelines, but she said she misses what campus life was like prior to COVID-19.
“I am so used to seeing everyone out and being so involved in campus activities,” she said. “It’s so weird to walk across the Scramble Light and not be handed a flyer or have an organization hand you a gift while rushing to class.”
As Ball State’s campus is not as busy as usual, Mirabelli said she thinks the campus community can still be safe.
She said, “I just hope that everyone wears their mask and practices social distancing so we can finally put this virus behind us.”
Contact Grace Bentkowski with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @gbentkowski.