Back to State Part Two: Student Life During a Pandemic

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As we near the beginning of in-person classes, students are returning back to campus. Hopes were high that this semester would feel more like the “normal” we were used to. As it turns out, it is pretty much the exact same, with COVID cases at an all-time high.

With a lack of normalcy, it is hard to make the most out of your college experience. Wearing masks everywhere and avoiding large gatherings is hard to do at Penn State. However, students are finding ways to create a semester that they will still enjoy even with taking classes from their own dorm rooms.

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Connor Griffin, a junior majoring in broadcast journalism, plans on being safe by hanging out with a select group of friends.

“I’m lucky in the sense that the main people I hang out with, we’re all a tight circle as it is, so we definitely try to keep it that way. And we try and make sure that we’re all respecting the guidelines and being responsible when it comes to the virus,” Griffin said.

Griffin praised Penn State’s efforts of providing guidelines and protocols to keep students safe from the coronavirus.

“I had five in-person classes last semester and there wasn’t a single time where I felt unsafe,” Griffin said.

Griffin said that we should keep in mind the work that Penn State has put into making an in-person/on-campus plan for students, and that we should respect the rules they have addressed because the university has our best interest in mind.

Kayla Sobers, a freshman in the Smeal College of Business, is also planning on returning to campus for the Spring 2021 semester after living on campus during Fall 2020.

Sobers said she plans to stay safe by “meeting people safely and joining a few clubs.”

“Be open to trying new things and meeting new people,” Sobers said as advice to other students returning to campus.  If you are stuck on what to do or what new thing to try, she suggests attending one of the group exercises hosted by Campus Recreation. These group activities require masks and social distance so they are perfect for a safe, but fun, time.

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Jay Meditia, a junior majoring in business management, has also been using exercise as a method of staying safe while on campus. 

According to Meditia, he has been utilizing the gym more often because you are by yourself and do not have to worry about being surrounded by others. 

Meditia said another way he has been staying safe is by learning the acoustic guitar, and exploring Adobe Cloud (which is free to all Penn State students).

Meditia said that in order to protect yourselves and others from COVID-19 this semester, you should wear your mask, stay home if you’re feeling ill, get tested before traveling home, and hang out with a select group of friends.

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Caitlin Shilen, a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism, is finding ways to keep this semester enjoyable by being safe with seeing her friends. 

“I’ll still hang out with people, I’ll just have to wear a mask and make sure we’re not hanging out in big groups, and not going against the rules. You can still see your friends and stuff, just make sure they have tested negative,” Shilen said.

Shilen also encourages everyone to keep up with coronavirus testing because you never know when you could have been potentially exposed.

Shilen was not on campus last semester, but feels it is safer to return now because students are “used to wearing masks now” and “have a routine with COVID.”

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Emily Reitz, a junior majoring in Spanish with a minor in linguistics, said that she will make sure to be safe when seeing people as well. Reitz says she will be sure to wear a mask and utilize physical distance while socializing with her friends.

This semester, Reitz said she will bring extra hand sanitizer and masks back to campus with her.

“I’m an RA, and I’ve noticed that a lot of my residents will forget their masks sometimes,” Reitz said. She said she will bring these extra masks to provide them to these students who are in need of one.

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Although this semester is different than students would have liked, it is all for good reason. The spread of the coronavirus has not slowed, so in efforts to keep Penn State safe, mask-wearing, as well as physical distancing, will be required on campus.

Testing with a negative result will be required within 72 hours before returning to campus.

Be sure to avoid large gatherings, and if you gather indoors or outdoors with 10 or less people, be sure to keep your mask on and distance yourself if possible.

And remember, MASK UP OR PACK UP!

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