Matt Hachten has been excited for the first day of classes since he became a Temple University student in Fall 2020. After taking a year off to avoid virtual classes, Hachten is eager to return to learning about and making music in person.
“I absolutely despise online learning,” said Hachten, a freshman music technology major. “I decided to defer last year just because I was betting that hopefully this year campus would be open, which thank god it is.”
On Aug. 23, Temple students returned to campus for the start of the fall semester, with the majority of classes held in-person for the first time since the pandemic began. After almost a year and half of virtual learning, many students were eager to return to in-person classes and the buzz of campus, but some students do not feel entirely comfortable returning due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia and the Delta variant.
Ximena Javadpour, a senior statistical science and data analytics major, is enrolled in all in-person classes except one virtual. However, she prefers remote learning. Taking all of her classes virtually was not an option for her this semester, because the majority of classes she needs to complete her degree are only offered in-person, she said.
Javadpour works in the Philadelphia International Airport and already feels like she is at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 because of the number of people she comes in contact with at work, she said. She also does not believe that Temple is doing a good job enforcing social distancing and masking guidelines.
“I kind of sit away from everybody else,” Javapour said. “I do notice that there isn’t really much social distancing in classes, like I expected. I’ve noticed that some people will just take off their masks in the middle of class and eat a snack or have a drink. It’s kind of like, don’t you care?”
Temple is requiring students to wear masks in buildings and get fully vaccinated by Oct. 15, in accordance with a mandate from the City of Philadelphia, The Temple News reported.
While Temple plans to continue in-person classes and activities during the fall semester, it has plans in place to pivot to primarily virtual learning at any time, according to the university.
As of Aug. 27, there are 77 estimated active cases of COVID-19 at Temple, according to the university’s COVID-19 dashboard. The positivity rate at Temple is 1.67 percent while Philadelphia’s positivity rate is 4.14 percent, according to the dashboard.
More than 883,000 people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in Philadelphia as of Aug. 30, according to The Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
Caleb Pietrafitta, a freshman mechanical engineering major, is not worried about COVID-19 and is mainly excited about joining clubs and student organizations, he said. Pietrafitta intentionally chose as many in-person classes as possible, because he prefers the constant supervision of in-person classes.
“I definitely like it a lot better than being virtual,” Pietrafitta said. “I don’t do well in a virtual setting. So I chose all in-person classes, because if I don’t have that monitoring I don’t get my work done.”
Spense Dawkins, a junior psychology major, does not learn as much in a virtual classroom as in person, they said.
Dawkins also missed the campus atmosphere. While taking classes in person will improve their learning experience, it was the social aspect of being on campus that they missed the most when they started at Temple last January, they said.
“I was a little upset, I’m sure we all were because everything was online and we weren’t seeing our friends or getting involved on campus,” Dawkins said. “Being back has been a nice breath of fresh air. Instead of school just being work, it’s also fun.”
Olivia Martinez, a senior global studies major, said returning to campus was a shock. The first day of classes was her first time returning to campus in almost a year since all of her classes were virtual during the past two semesters, Martinez added.
“It’s super weird being back,” Martinez said. “I forgot how many students go here. It looks insane. I forgot there’s lines for everything. It just looks so crowded. It’s exciting but also scary obviously because of COVID and stuff.”
The transition back to in-person classes feels like going back to normal, Martinez said.
Sara Gingras, a senior graphic design major, is also excited to be back on-campus, especially since it’s her last year at Temple, she said. After spending the last year and a half taking online classes, she is happy to spend her last year on campus surrounded by her fellow classmates.
“I missed being in Tyler, being around all the different types of people in Tyler, seeing everyones outfits, all the good energy and everything that comes with being around people that you just want to be around,” said Gingras. “Those are my people I feel like.”