Sac State students balance excitement of returning to campus with post-COVID realities


Jennah Booth

Left to right: Tyler Eick, Emma Pike, Dez Vela and Robert Jackson, along with many other Sacramento State students, returned to campus this semesterfor the first time since March 2020. While some are still cautious due to the pandemic, most say they are eager to return to in-person learning.

Jennah Booth

As most students return to the Sacramento State campus for the first time in nearly 18 months, many say they are eager to return to normalcy while still learning to balance the post-COVID changes. 

One new reality for students on campus is the mask mandate, which many say hasn’t yet posed much of an issue. 

Robert Jackson, music education major, said most classmates and professors have followed the mandate, aside from a few complaints of people being uncomfortable wearing a mask for long periods of time.

“Occasionally you’ll hear a comment or two…but I’m fine with it,” Jackson said. “I work in the health field so I understand, yeah, we need masks. We’ll wear them when we need to wear them.”

Jackson also said many of his professors are advocating and accommodating for students to stay home if they feel sick.

Similarly, Emma Pike, a child and adolescent development major, said the mask mandate is nothing new for her because she’s already used to masking for hours at work.

“I take breaks if I’m drinking or if there’s nobody around me,” Pike said. “I see other people doing the same and that doesn’t really bother me. Everybody has been really respectful of one another, which I think is really cool.” 

Despite not seeing any issues with other students masking, Jackson said he was still apprehensive returning to campus because of how other students would handle the new regulations. 

“I still had my concerns about the people around me especially, just because I wasn’t sure exactly how they were going to feel,” he said. “I knew how I was going to feel and how I was going to approach it, but I was just more concerned about if I share the same views as the people around me.”

Child development major Adrienne Reed held similar reservations about being back on campus. 

Reed transferred to Sac State from Solano Community College six weeks before the campus shut down in March 2020, and while she says she’s happy to be back, she still has concerns about the campus’s vaccine requirements. 

“I feel partially safe,” Reed said. “I kind of feel uncomfortable sometimes because I know we’re supposed to have our vaccination cards, but I don’t know if everyone actually has theirs.”

RELATED: FAQ: What to know about the COVID-19 vaccine mandate at Sac State

Many students say the benefits of campus life outweigh the risks of contracting COVID-19. Like Reed, Pike transferred from Sierra College but had never stepped foot on campus. She said her first semester online was “brutal” and she was eager to start the new semester. 

According to Pike, being vaccinated along with all of her close friends and family, gave her a sense of security taking in-person classes for the first time since the start of the pandemic. 

“I’m a people person…I like just being outside and being around people, and people watching in the most non-creepy way,” Pike said. “So I was just excited to be completely immersed in a school environment again to make learning tangible.”

Many students shared Pike’s struggle with online learning over the last year. As a music student, Jackson said he struggled with playing his instrument at home alone. 

“I was most excited about just playing around other people and just being back in a learning environment,” he said. “I’m someone who doesn’t learn on my own. I very much gain value from the people around me, and so just being alone in my room didn’t feel as helpful or impactful.”

For Tyler Eick, a kinesiology major, in-person classes were also a welcome change to the last 18 months of online learning. 

“I personally cannot learn over Zoom,” Eick said. “I cannot learn over distance, so it feels really nice to be back in class and have an actual teacher to talk to and students to collaborate with.” 

RELATED: Sac State President Robert Nelsen updates campus on COVID-19 protocols as fall semester approaches 

While many students are returning to in-person learning, many are also still taking online classes. Balancing online synchronous, asynchronous, hybrid and in-person classes means students are still learning to adapt their schedules. 

Jackson says he had to save for a laptop so he could take his synchronous online courses in the time between his classes on campus. 

“I have one class at eight in the morning in person, followed by two online classes, and then everything else in person,” he said. “I had to polish up some pennies to try and get a laptop so I would be able to still take the online classes on campus without having to drive the hour back home and back.”

Many students like Eick and Dez Vela, a liberal studies major, graduated highschool in the height of the pandemic. Vela said she is excited to redeem her lost high school senior year through life in the dorms and football games. 

“I was class of 2021 and we got totally robbed,” Vela said. “I’m still getting used to the environment here, but everyone’s so nice, and I love having in-person classes.”

Regardless of how confident they feel returning, students said they have a shared understanding of what it takes to make in-person learning happen. 

“There’s a nice sense of community,” Pike said. “It’s cool to know that I might not know everybody, but everybody is trying to do their part to look after one another and that’s refreshing.”