Return to Campus
After a year and a half of remote learning, Aggies finally will return to campus this month. Many will arrive for the first time. Excitement and nervousness amid the ongoing pandemic is a common theme, as they reflect on their recent experiences and hopes for the new academic year. Here, five UC Davis undergraduates shared their insights on returning to campus and their experiences with online learning over the past year.
Major: Environmental Policy Analysis and Planning
Beginning college in a pandemic, Amanda Zetina was determined to be in an environment that allowed her to focus on school. She moved from her hometown of Huntington Park, California, to the residence halls in her freshman year, a decision she said she really cherished.
“My experience in the dorms was great. I felt very safe. It would get isolating at times, but I would always remember the support system I have: my friends on campus, my RAs, and my family and friends back home,” said Zetina.
She attended her classes from her room and got involved in campus activities; she attended weekly Zoom club meetings and participated in COVID-safe events in her residence hall, put together by her resident advisors. She joined the Chicanx Latinx Collegiate Association, where she said the social events she attended and connections she formed with upperclassmen helped ease her college experience. “[It was] by far the greatest choice I ever made,” said Zetina.
She said she looks forward to further immersing herself in campus life by joining more clubs and volunteering with the AB540 and Undocumented Student Center.
Alfredo Arzola Ibarra
Alfredo Arzola Ibarra’s college experience is certainly one for the books. A freshman in 2018, he attended his first quarter at UC Davis when wildfires caused the cancelation of some classes due to air quality concerns. His sophomore year was cut short as the pandemic spread, and his junior year was entirely online. Now, he said he feels a mixture of nervousness and excitement as he returns to campus for his final year.
A full-time student, Arzola Ibarra also will balance two jobs this fall: as a graphic designer for the Office of Educational Opportunity and Enrichment Services on campus and as a barista at Philz Coffee in downtown Davis. His day-to-day responsibilities will include an early morning shift at Philz, followed by in-person classes in the afternoon, and homework and club endeavors in the evening.
“At my jobs, I make sure to wear a mask every day and wash my hands frequently for my own safety as well as the Davis community’s safety,” said Arzola Ibarra. “I will definitely be more cautious because everyone will be coming back from all over, and I can’t trust that everyone has gotten their vaccines.”
He said he is excited to make new friends while reconnecting with old ones, but also feels nervous about returning to campus. “I am most worried about the people that haven’t been vaccinated endangering vulnerable communities on campus.”
On a typical weekday during her freshman year, Vaishnavi Pandey would be asleep throughout the afternoon. But at 3 o’clock in the morning, she’s be at her desk, ready to learn. Pandey attended her classes from her home in India, with a 12-hour time difference from the rest of her classmates in the U.S.
“The large difference between PST and Indian time was honestly the most challenging part of my first year. It was really difficult to manage my academics since most of the classes were at very late hours,” said Pandey. “I have learned that I’m not the best learner when isolated. Surrounding myself with people who have the same goals or schedule as me really helps me focus, and being all alone in ‘Zoom University’ was extremely difficult.”
She said she is excited to return to campus and feels nervous about living far away from her family for the first time. This will be Pandey’s first time in the United States. She is concerned that homesickness and living independently will affect her grades. However, as a rising sophomore, she said she looks forward to attending in-person classes and getting the true college experience.
James Chapman had only been to UC Davis once before the pandemic hit. A transfer student from Santa Rosa, California, he will attend classes in person for the first time this fall. “Learning online felt more like a personal experience, whereas learning in person is more of a group experience,” said Chapman. He said he looks forward to making more connections with professors and students, as he found that to be the difficult part of remote learning.
Chapman plans on connecting with fellow Aggies through his job as a private introductory statistics tutor, a role he has continued from his time at junior college. During his orientation, Chapman also joined the Aggie Gaming club, where students chat and play games together on an online server. “I occasionally join in and when I do, I always meet some new, friendly people to play with,” said Chapman.
This fall, he said he will start his days with morning workouts, followed by biking to classes in the afternoon, and picking up dinner from one of the dining commons before heading home for a night of studying and playing video games with friends.
Katia Delgado-Corvera planned to get involved in student life on campus as a freshman, and the pandemic didn’t stop her. Now, she plays an active role in five different student organizations.
“Early on, I had heard about the importance of finding your community on campus and took the initiative to find it,” said Delgado-Corvera. She joined the Special Transitional Enrichment Program and the Educational Opportunity Program, which help first-generation and low-income students successfully transition to college. She became director of the nonprofit Moore Truth More Change, which seeks to educate and empower underprivileged youth. She is also an active member of the Chicanx Latinx Collegiate Association, the Student Recruitment and Retention Center and the Center for Leadership Learning.
“For the first time in my academic career, I was able to find like-minded people who challenged me to grow and make the campus feel closer to me,” said Delgado-Corvera.
She did all of that from her family home in Thermal, California. Still, Delgado-Corvera said she often felt isolated throughout the past academic year due to the lack of in-person connections. She added that over the past year she learned the importance of mental health wellness and leaving herself room to rest when needed.
Now, she said she’s ready to meet her fellow club members in person and to be on campus for the first time.