For first-year and transfer students, navigating a new campus and meeting fellow students can be challenging in the best of times. When it happens in the middle of a pandemic, things become even more difficult. For the 2020-21 academic year, those students had a unique experience unlike their fellow students. This year, they are finally getting something closer to the normal Loras experience.
While not operating exactly the same as the pre-COVID days, this semester operates on a new kind of normal that the campus hasn’t seen before. Due to the high rates of community transmission in Dubuque County, Loras College has a face-covering requirement in place for all indoor campus facilities, including classrooms.
“I have felt more sense of community and enthusiasm about being together this semester — a feeling I am sure most people establish their first year,” Gabriel Sanchez (’22) said. “It is very clear that people are antsy about being together again, and I am excited to finally be in person with my fellow Duhawks.”
The COVID-19 pandemic forced Loras to close campus in March 2020 and transition strictly to online learning. Last year, the College introduced a hybrid approach with both in-person and online instruction, but with heavy restrictions on gathering and spacing. As a result, much of the interactions across campus were online.
Along with positive changes in the atmosphere, there are also changes in the classroom. “It is easier for me to focus in class with the professor right in front of me, holding me accountable and I feel more comfortable asking questions in person rather than via zoom,” Ella Reily (’24) said.
There are many perks with being in-person but this is still a transitioning time. Campus events, like homecoming, are back, as are many of the experiential learning opportunities that demonstrate how Duhawks help Duhawks.
“It is weird because I feel at home in Loras, but I am experiencing so many elements of ‘Loras life’ for the first time,” Sanchez said.
As the semester continues, students are excited to get back to the things that make the Duhawk experience. After the last three semesters, students have a new appreciation to be back in person with the Duhawk community.
The Zoom fatigue, excessive screen time, and connection issues that students dealt with last year are being filled with engaging in-person teaching, hands-on experience and one-on-one connections with the faculty.
This is the Loras many alumni and upperclassmen remember.