The American education system has been racing to embrace “the new normal” since COVID-19 vaccines came out, and Ramapo College is no exception.
For freshman and sophomores, living on campus and attending in person classes is a new experience. For many juniors, they are returning after having their freshman year cut short.
“I really liked my First Year Seminar even though it was remote," said sophomore Erin Keenan. "My professor was really good and he was inclusive and he was making sure that even though it kind of sucked and we weren’t on campus he made sure to really give us that really good experience.
“But then… some of my professors were rude and strict and they just weren’t being easy on us since we had been virtual since March of our senior year [of high school].”
Alexander Kave, a marketing major, was grateful to have been one of the few students who stayed on campus.
“I would say my favorite part was definitely seeing the campus in winter because it was just beautiful," he said. "The snow lasted for a month so it really gave me that impression of ‘Oh, wow. This is what campus is going to be like in the winter. I can’t wait for this for the next four years.’”
But, Kave said, the campus had little to offer aside from the pretty scenery. “I just didn’t enjoy that there was really nothing to do on campus, honestly,' he said. "They didn’t have much planned out, even for outdoor activities.”
Both sophomores said they are eager to become more involved with campus life during this semester. Kave recalled his recent performance at the Padovano Commons with the Ramapo Music Club, and Keenan spoke about the friendships she formed already with her suitemates.
Freshmen are also enthusiastic about life on campus.
After spending most of their junior and senior years of high school online, nursing majors Lauren Lisojo and Erizel Platon are more than ready for a change.
“It’s easy to adjust more ‘cause we’re actually around people that I feel comfortable with… I feel like at home it was isolating," Lisojo said. "All I did was do school work and sleep and that was it.”
While students say they are eager to return to pre-pandemic learning conditions, no transition is without bumps. Sophomores who had never navigated the campus before struggled for the first few days.
“Everyone was like, ‘Wait, which way is my classroom? Is it this way? Is it that way? Wait, ASB? No, I’m in A-’ I did that,'' Keenan joked.
Balancing virtual, hybrid and in-person classes can also be tricky.
Platon’s course load is mixed. “I definitely prefer the in-person,” she said, “In one of my classes, we even meet outside so we’re able to take down our masks.”
Taking masks off outdoors is a relief, but many students said that Ramapo’s indoor mask mandate is for the best.
“I am very happy with the fact that they have basically said ‘You’re okay. Just wear a mask,’" Kave said. "I’m completely fine with that, and it’s definitely helped.”
Platon compared her and her friends’ experiences at different colleges. “Their dorms are much more lenient with the Covid restrictions and because of that there have been more Covid cases.”
Although the campus is bursting with life and activity for the first time in nearly two years, some students still feel isolated. Lisojo said some freshmen who were not given roommates were struggling to make connections.
Anyone who is having trouble adjusting can reach out to the various services available from the college: Resident Assistants are planning opportunities to help residents connect, academic advisers can help students keep up with various forms of course delivery and counseling services are available to provide additional support.
Separation has caused many people to forget they are all part of the RCNJ community, but this semester hopefully those connections will return stronger and more visible than before.