With 97 percent of the University of Maryland, College Park, campus community fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and the delta variant spreading across the country, students say they are hopeful that they won’t be forced back to distance learning.
“I’m trying to stay optimistic, as I think that our campus’ high vaccine rates will help us avoid any trouble with the delta variant,” said sophomore Lanie Berger, who hopes classrooms will remain open for the entire school year.
Last year, most classes were held over Zoom and most students did not leave their rooms. Now, students are walking to classes and attending clubs and athletic events in person.
Senior Yonah Hamermesh said she is excited to be back in the classroom.
“I love that we are here in person,” she said. “I went home last year, so I’m just thankful to be here for my senior year. And I think, as long as we can have classes in person, as long as they’re keeping that up, [the university is] doing a good job in my book,” she said.
Rabbi Ari Israel, Maryland Hillel’s executive director, said his agency is eager to rebuild the connections with students that were disrupted by the lockdown.
“Students are eager to meet and gather. We also have a unique opportunity to reintegrate two years of students who never experienced a normal fall on campus,” he said.
Senior Jonah Tash said it was hard for him to concentrate in classes he was taking on Zoom. The last time he was on campus was in the spring semester of his sophomore year, just before COVID-19 shuttered schools and businesses.
“I did not realize it until I returned to campus, but I really missed being able to chat with friends before and after lectures,” he wrote in an email. “I am trying my best to enjoy my last year at school. I am also trying my best to stay safe on campus and prevent spreading of the delta variant.”
Most students interviewed for this article share this sentiment. Following Prince George’s County guidelines, students and staff wear masks except when walking outside or eating.
“I feel like I’m learning in my classes again, which wasn’t necessarily true beforehand,” Hamermesh said. “Before, you just got through your classes as best as possible. And now, even in just one class, I feel like I’ve learned more than I learned back in the fall.”