Since its arrival in March 2020, the COVID-19 virus has given students a much different college experience than anticipated. With the closures of universities and transition to online learning, a "new normal" emerged. Now Mississippi State University students are undergoing yet another transition, as students adjust to having in-person classes. This transition has been met with mixed opinions from students and faculty.
Many members of the class of 2025 have felt a range of emotions since arriving at MSU. They are anxious, excited, nervous and hopeful about life at their new university, all while still navigating life amid a pandemic.
Mabry Keyes, a freshman communication major, has joined multiple organizations since arriving at MSU, including Chi Omega sorority and the university's choir. She is thrilled about all that is to come.
"There's so much I'm excited for! I can't wait for football season, Chi O(mega) events and choir concerts, to name a few. This year is gonna be a good one," Keyes said.
The current sophomore class was hit the hardest last year when they arrived on campus. The cancellation of New Maroon Camp and Bulldog Bash, mostly-online classes, virtual orientation and Greek Life recruitment, modified game days and more had the class of 2024 feeling discouraged about their college experience. However, many of them still got involved and made the best of the unprecedented times.
That being said, sophomores may be the most thrilled of anyone to have a normal semester. Luke McConnie, a sophomore business major, reminisced on last year as he prepares for this semester.
"I had a great group of friends, was involved and had an awesome experience. However, I know many sophomores who did not get that same experience due to limited opportunities," McConnie said.
He pointed out that although being back on campus is exciting, it is more draining than online classes.
"Going back in-person is definitely a struggle, especially in planning ahead and studying," McConnie said.
Current juniors had one full semester of normalcy before the lockdown. They hope for a return to camaraderie among classmates the way it used to be.
Eli Whitten, a junior educational psychology major from Brandon, Mississippi, has looked forward to her in-person classes from both a learning and communal standpoint.
"I have enjoyed interacting with my professors and having 'class friends' again. I have enjoyed the consistency of having community with students both older and younger than me," Whitten said.
She also takes comfort in the return of a crowded campus.
"I am looking forward (to) seeing a full capacity of students on the Drill Field. Seeing a mass of students freshman year made me feel so at home," Whitten said.
Seniors are ready to make their final year at MSU unforgettable, especially since campus is back to in-person classes and events. However, with cases of COVID-19 rising once again, the university reinstated a mask mandate inside all campus buildings less than a month before the start of classes.
Vimal Patel, a senior industrial technology major, is graduating in December. He is prepared to pull his mask back out if it means an in-person semester.
"Seeing each other, even with masks, is still great. Interacting with everybody, getting involved on campus is the way it is meant to be. I hope we never go back online," Patel said.
Regina Hyatt, vice president of student affairs at MSU, has talked with students of various classifications about their feelings regarding the current school year.
"They too are excited about the upcoming year. Most have talked about looking forward to campus activities and events and having a chance to be back with friends, reconnect with their student organizations and more," Hyatt said.
She shared some wisdom about how students and faculty can continue to have a fun and safe semester, stressing the importance of getting vaccinated and staying cautious.
"Wear your mask; do what you can to stay safe and well. It's going to take all of us to help keep the campus community healthy," Hyatt said.