Now that it is officially autumn, change is upon us. Not only are the leaves changing colors and the days becoming colder, but — for students — fall signals a time when classes begin to change pace. Coursework begins to increase, assignments pile up, deadlines approach and morale seems to plummet as in-person classes begin to take their toll. Last year, we were online during this time, and while that format came with its challenges, the coursework remained consistent, making classes more bearable. While the return to in-person classes is exciting, it can also be incredibly stressful as students must now readapt to the rigor and challenges of in-person classes.

One of the biggest sources of the stress associated with in-person classes may not come from the classes themselves, but the preparation leading up to the class. Maria Behnke, a junior majoring in graphic design and art history, describes her transition back to in-person classes. 

“It was odd, waking up so much earlier than you would for online classes, and finding parking is a pain,” Behnke said. 

With online classes, students did not need to invest as much time and energy into preparing for class as they do for in-person classes. One of the benefits of online classes was that they provided students with the freedom to access classes from anywhere, which made attending classes much more manageable. A student’s commute simply consisted of rolling out of bed, turning on their computer, and POOF — they were instantly transported to class. With the return of in-person classes, students must now schedule enough time to wake up, make themselves look somewhat presentable and drive to campus in the hope of securing a parking spot. 

Tori Fuller, a junior majoring in graphic design, echoed this idea as she explained why the lead up to in-person classes feels much more stressful than that of online. 

“It is more stressful just because it’s physically exhausting too — just walking around campus — and even just staying there all day versus online where it’s like ‘OK, class is over so I’m just going to (sleep),’” Fuller said.

While students could easily jump from class to class at the touch of a button with online classes, that convenience no longer applies since in-person classes resumed. On days when students have multiple classes, it can be easier to stay on the academic side of campus all day rather than commuting to and from campus numerous times in one day. 

Students not only have to readjust to walking multiple miles everyday getting to and from classes, but also to planning in advance to be on campus the whole day. This means scheduling transportation, planning lunch and finding places to study in between classes. It can therefore be hard to juggle the baggage that in-person classes bring after having the convenience of online classes for so long. 

In addition to preparation, students are also facing added pressure to perform since returning to in-person classes. 

“I feel a lot of pressure to perform that I didn’t feel when we were in in-person classes before. With online (classes), you’re doing your own thing at your own pace,” Behnke said.

The feeling of added pressure is also felt within the classroom because students are now physically attending classes on campus. 

“In class with activities and homework, there’s more pressure right then and there,” Fuller said. “It can be a good thing because you feel more productive, but at the same time it’s just more stressful.”

Now that students are back in a physical classroom, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. While students are spending the same amount of time in class as they were online, online classes allowed students to move at their own pace. For some online classes, attending lectures merely meant working on homework or completing asynchronous assignments. According to Behnke and Fuller, some professors were also more lenient with assignments because of the online nature of the class. 

Since classes are no longer online, it feels as though professors have defrosted their pre-COVID-19 expectations, requiring students to devote additional time to coursework outside of class time. Although these expectations are nothing new, students are starting to feel this added pressure to readapt to normalcy after a year of online classes. 

Despite its challenges and the change of pace, in-person classes have reminded us of life before COVID-19.

“I didn't realize this while we were online as much as I do now in retrospect, but I really missed seeing all my professors and classmates,” Behnke said. “You don’t really realize how much classmates help, and it’s nice to have other people around.”

There is so much to look forward to now that in-person classes have resumed and life has begun to return to normal. However, not everyone handles this transition into post-pandemic life the same. It can be hard for students to adjust to in-person classes after spending the past year adjusting to classes on a completely different medium. Faculty should keep this in mind when scheduling deadlines and determining coursework in order to prioritize students’ wellbeing and help make the transition back as smooth as possible. In-person classes may seem more stressful, but we can all adapt together this semester.

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