What Can We Expect When We Return to Campus?

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Photo Credit: kyo azuma (via unsplash)

Memorial University administration plans on reintroducing some on-campus classes next semester. What is this going to mean for students? The way we used to attend in-person classes and interact with each other has undergone a colossal re-evaluation with our time in isolation. We need to make changes to our routines for the health and safety of our community. Hopefully, we can regain some sense of normality in our lives without worrying excessively about our well-being.

When we go back to MUN, I think some changes we can expect will be smaller class sizes or classes booked in bigger rooms relative to the class sizes. Before this virus ordeal, I took a few courses in very cramped classrooms where I was elbow-to-elbow with my classmates. We were packed so tightly together that I could see my neighbour’s notebook better than I could see my own. I am assuming that MUN administration are going to take care to make sure all students have adequate personal space so that future illnesses do not spread so readily.

It doesn’t seem like we will have international, or even provincial, vaccination before the spring semester, so we will have to take caution to avoid the spread of COVID-19 related germs. Hand sanitizer at the door of every classroom would be an addition to our environment that would help to reduce the spread of illness. The last time I remember having hand sanitizer in every classroom was in elementary school, but I must say, they had the right idea back then.

I don’t believe that it is possible just yet for all of MUN’s students to return to campus. There is not enough room to accommodate social distancing for the almost 20,000 students attending classes in all the same buildings. We all remember the chaos that occurs in the tunnels at critical times throughout the day. They transform from a convenient way to travel between classes without going outside to an amalgamation of students coming from all directions rushing to their next classes. I think even the tunnels will need a capacity limit when we reconvene at MUN.

International students face an additional obstacle when it comes to the prospect of returning to campus. As it stands currently, all international travellers to Canada must await the results of a COVID-19 test before being granted official entry into the country. According to the prime minister, these travellers must also quarantine at their own expense while they wait. Depending on how long the process takes, and whether or not international students have been exposed to the virus, I believe that it would be best to offer international students the opportunity to continue studying from home until travelling becomes safer and more certain.

The staff at MUN will also have to adjust to working outside of the home again. It’s easy to forget that essential workers at MUN have been continuing to show up to campus for work every day, so these staff members have already adjusted to a new routine that attempts to keep them and their co-workers safe. When non-essential staff returns, however, they will be undergoing a dramatic adjustment to their usual routine. Staff who work from home are not used to wearing masks all day and having to worry about contact with others. It will probably be good practice for staff to keep their office doors closed and refrain from knocking on closed doors without an appointment.

It will take some time to adjust our ideas of what it means to be in a social setting to reflect our desires to keep ourselves and others safe. If we return to campus next semester, our best bet is to approach the matter cautiously and to take our time in the re-integration process. The more problems that we can identify and correct before-hand, the more likely we are to be successful in our re-introduction to society.

Though questions of what we can expect during our return to campus are abundant, one thing remains certain: Our return to campus will mean a return to our sense of community and togetherness as MUN staff and students. I look forward to taking part in the camaraderie and reminiscing with others about our experiences this past year. Let’s work together to make this transition as painless as possible. See you soon!

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