UIS students reflect in person on a year back; enhancement of social interaction, mental health | Features

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Students at Illinois State University got to experience something that just a year ago many weren’t sure would happen: resuming classes in person, and possibly mask-free.

For a year and a half, students and teachers had to readjust their social and learning skills in a fully online world. As the school year draws to a close, students have had a lot to think about as part of the important transition to normal life.

Senior communications student Vanesa Radenkovic shared how happy she was to be back in person for her senior year.

“To be able to come back to campus for a full year after COVID was amazing,” Radenkovic said. “I’m so grateful to have been able to be back on campus for my senior year.”

Although the possibility of coming back online could have easily become a reality, Radenkovic said she doesn’t mind.

“I never really felt unsafe on campus,” Radenkovic said. “I was fully vaccinated and mask mandates were still being implemented for the majority of the semester. There wasn’t a moment when I was afraid we would go back online, even when we had two weeks online at the start of this semester.

Second-year political science major Zach Roy also said he felt safe on campus.

“The fact that the university had the testing requirement for the unvaccinated in general made me feel pretty safe,” Roy said. “Was there COVID on campus? Yes. But I really liked how the university handled COVID-19.

Roy explained how the in-person return added to the change he made to transfer to ISU.

“I come from an asynchronous community college, so it was definitely a shock to get into four-year college in person,” Roy said. “It was amazing how many people I met at ISU and how friendly everyone was. As a transfer student, I really expected some tough times, but once I got used to the people, I absolutely loved my experience at ISU in person.

After being online for half of his college experience, junior history teaching major Nick Pierson said he thoroughly enjoyed his first year at ISU in person.

“It felt good to be on campus and be able to meet people and not leave them right after you met them,” Pierson said. “I feel like I missed a lot of my freshman year.”

While there were many positive experiences, the change of being in person was overwhelming for some. Justyna Magiera is the ISU Gymnastics Sports Coach and a graduate student in Kinesiology.

“The first half was a bit overwhelming because I’m also a graduate assistant sports coach,” Magiera said. “So not only do I go to school, but I have a job. I had to get used to working, going to practices, then going to class, then going back to my office.

Along with time management, Magiera said her biggest lesson of the school year was to prioritize mental health.

“I feel like everyone has struggled with their mental health during the pandemic, with shutdowns and isolations,” Magiera said. “Not being able to physically see another human being is really hard on someone’s psyche. I think in the future I will focus more on my mental health and make sure my friends are okay.

Radenkovic said his biggest lesson of the year was not to stress about the little things.

“I could have easily spent my entire senior year online, I could have had a virtual degree,” Radenkovic said. “But, I was able to see my friends in person. I could have been on the Quad every day if I wanted to, so I was full of gratitude this entire year with real social interaction every day.

KAYLEE SUGIMOTO is a news and feature reporter for The Vidette. Sugimoto contract at ksugim1@ilstu.edu. Follow Sugimoto on Twitter at @kayleesugimoto1


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