As of this week, empty libraries and bare sidewalks no longer characterize Cornell’s campus. With the University’s return to in-person classes this week, bustling students have packed popular study spots and classrooms, bringing life back to campus.
In the days before winter break, Cornell was among many universities that saw COVID infections soar with the rise of the Omicron variant. Now that the University has returned to in-person classes, students have expressed their satisfaction with the mental health benefits and stronger academic experiences. In-person classes will continue throughout the semester as long as Cornellians abide by COVID-19 restrictions set by the University, receiving surveillance testing and wearing high-quality masks.
Rebecca Real ‘25 stated that she felt eager to return to a normal classroom setting.
“I can better learn from my peers because I don’t have to be anxious about being one of the few students revealing my face on camera,” Real said.
Students weren’t the only ones impacted by the effects of virtual instruction –– professors and University faculty also faced setbacks in an online format.
“[Online learning] was a good experience in a way, but also created some challenges for the learning environment, especially during the first week of class as students were getting to know each other,” said Prof. Shorna Allred, natural resources and the environment.
Allred noted that online classes benefited students who added courses very close to the add deadline, as they could catch up on the material through recorded Zoom lectures — a resource that would not have been available during previous semesters.
Now back in-person, Allred emphasized her love for informal conversations between students and their professors, an element that is more difficult to recreate on Zoom.
“Contact in the classroom from the students is a really important visual,” said Prof. Adam Arcadi, anthropology.
Although excited to re-enter the classroom, some students expressed feeling tired during the transition.
“Being surrounded by peers and friends in classrooms motivates me to work harder,” said Sophia Lohmeyer ’25. “However, I do feel that it is much more time-consuming, as I wake up earlier and have to spend significant amounts of time walking to class.”
Still, Lohmeyer and others mentioned the benefits of walking to class, noting that it’s a great form of exercise and a positive way to mentally prepare for the day.
Despite the University’s return to in-person operations, some noted that Cornell is accountable for maintaining low case numbers and avoiding any more abrupt changes for those on campus.
“As we continue through this phase of the pandemic, the administration’s job is to continue to control COVID effectively and not let COVID control us,” said Nick Wilsey ’25.
Aimée Eicher ’24 contributed reporting.