With COVID-19 mandates lifted and pre-pandemic activities returning to campus, Cornellians are now enjoying their first “normal” semester since the beginning of the outbreak.
Campus is once again bustling with activity. Students gather to study or play frisbee on the lawns, sit together for meals and — most notably — walk into and out of their classes maskless.
However, some students, like Michael-David Nguyen ’26, feel that campus’s return to normalcy is not yet complete.
“There are definitely COVID-19 related concerns that still exist since people are always coughing without masks,” Nguyen said. “It is concerning when the person next to you in class is clearly sick.”
Nguyen said he feels that the pandemic has had a significant effect on the way in which people view their health as people will now think more deeply about their health — even a light cold.
Still, Nguyen said he is generally ready to welcome post-pandemic changes to his social and academic lives. With campus buildings once again functioning at full capacity, Nguyen has been able to spend more time outside of his room.
“There are a lot of options around how you can spend your day,” Nguyen said. “I’m pretty much never in my dorm. I think it’s cool that you can hang out with your friends whenever, like asking if they want to go to the library or the Dairy Bar.”
Daria Badger ’26 also expressed excitement at the increase in social interactions this year.
“I love how social it is, because high school was all online for me and [I was not] able to interact with people at all and see them outside of school,” Badger said.
For Badger, learning in an in-person classroom setting has allowed her to collaborate more freely with other students for group assignments and develop meaningful relationships. Increased accessibility to resources around campus as well as being able to meet with professors has also contributed greatly to her academic progress, Badger said.
Students who began their first years at Cornell in the height of the pandemic are similarly thrilled to see the campus invigorated by social activities and friendly interactions.
Ryan Sheehan ’25 said that he felt early University COVID-19 guidelines, such as restrictions on the number of guests in dorm rooms, made socializing difficult.
“Even when your friends are down the hall or across the quad, you [couldn’t] really hang out with them much,” Sheehan said. “I think that was the main thing I missed. Not even a big social event, but just those little everyday things.”
Sheehan also felt that the mask mandates and numerous regulations around campus were obstacles to his first-year experience.
“Initially, it was a bit comforting to not have to put yourself out there so much,” Sheehan said. “But, I think it was most stressful to follow the rules because everyone wanted to keep themselves safe, and got used to not leaving their room and just being in their own space a lot.”
Other students, like Mari Kramer ’23, said that improvements in their mental health as a result of experiencing a more refreshing lifestyle.
“I’ve spent more time outside after the pandemic,” said Mari Kramer ’23. “It benefits [me] in a lot of ways.”
When needing a break from studying indoors, Kramer continued, she is now free to go for a walk. Running into classmates and friends around campus and exploring Ithaca has functioned as a morale booster that helps her maintain good emotional health, according to Kramer.
As masks come off and social traditions are revived, now is an ideal time to form relationships in classes, student-led organizations and public spaces on campus such as dining halls and libraries. Following the major break in social life that the pandemic forced on students in previous semesters, Cornellians agree that they are now more eager to speak to others and seek positive relationships.
“People are willing to socialize more, now that the pandemic has ended. It’s a new experience for everyone,” Badger said.
However, although things seem to be returning to “normal”, the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. While COVID-19 cases have dropped significantly since the pandemic’s peak, there continue to be spikes globally and on campus. Just this August, there was a spike in cases on campus during the move-in period, though those numbers have dropped this month.
Additionally, for individuals with disabilities, and those in close contact with them, getting the virus still poses a serious health risk.