Clock is ticking for the Class of 2021

Posted January 11, 2021 6:49 p.m. EST

It is yet another final hurrah without the usual festivities and excitement; the spring semester of senior year is going to be bogged down by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Students at Duke University, NC State University and UNC Chapel Hill will return to classes in just about a week. For those at NC State and UNC Chapel Hill, this semester will be their first time learning on campus since a failed attempt at in-person classes in August.

“Honestly, I would still say it’s irresponsible for students to be brought back to campus because the cases have not gone down — in fact they’ve gotten worse,” said Bryce Royal, a senior at NC State.

Duke is set to resume in-person instruction on Jan. 20, while classes at NC State and UNC were supposed to begin on the Jan. 19. UNC announced last week that face-to-face classes will be postponed until Feb. 8.

The COVID-19 safety protocols implemented by Duke for the fall 2020 semester have been viewed as an example for how in-person instruction can be effectively implemented. Some Duke students, including Sharmi Amin, are optimistic to return to the classroom.

“I’m ready to go back to campus and sort of get that college feel again, the one I didn’t get last semester,” said Amin.

The eagerness to return to the classroom expressed by Amin was not echoed by Royal or Vivian Le, who is a senior at UNC. Both were unsure of their peers’ and universities’ commitments to safety and preventing the spread of the pandemic.

Leading up to their final spring semesters, students at each university had an abnormally long two-month winter break, which is a result of other breaks being stricken from academic calendars to prevent student travel, and thus potential spread of COVID-19.

“I am really ready to get back to school and just doing things,” said Le. “It shows how much I need and like that fast-paced life.”

Amin spent her break preparing for the MCAT, while Royal spent his with family and learning French. They both expressed a readiness to return to learning, though they do not see eye-to-eye on how instruction should currently be carried out — remotely or face-to face.

Students’ experiences from the fall semester have molded their respective views on how the remainder of their college careers will play out.

Duke’s safety protocols have made it possible for Amin to firmly say that she will walk across the stage at Spring commencement.

After UNC’s tumultuous return in the fall, Le finds it unlikely that she will attend an in-person graduation ceremony. Royal agrees with Le and does not believe the Spring 2021 graduating class will have an in-person graduation. He plans to continue his studies for another year before he will graduate and can hope that things return to some semblance of normalcy by that time.

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