Students walk up and down Jayhawk Boulevard

Students walk up and down Jayhawk Boulevard during campus rush hour. For the first time since 2020, a majority of classes are in-person with students and faculty required to wear masks. 

This fall is the University of Kansas Class of 2024's first time attending the majority of their classes in-person and going to college with some sense of normalcy. Though they found last year challenging, some sophomores said last year fostered personal growth. 

The University of Kansas class of 2024 entered their sophomore year this fall, but for many it is their first time attending in-person classes and going to college with some sense of normalcy. Though they found last year challenging, some students at the University of Kansas said last year fostered personal growth. 

Erin McGuire, a nursing major from Wisner, Nebraska, said she chose on-campus living coming into freshman year, despite the unknown of the fall 2020 semester because of the resources KU offered to medical students.

“I knew if I stayed home, I would not work,” McGuire said. “I’d get too distracted. At least being here, I did have resources, even if they weren’t in person.” 

Despite having these resources in person, McGuire said she felt separated from her peers due to the lack of events and social connection. While clubs still met last year, she said the online learning platform was too isolating.

“I feel like I’ve kind of gotten robbed — especially since going into nursing school,” McGuire said. “Nursing school is not your typical college experience… so I don’t know if I can ever say I ever had a normal college year. That’s kind of sad.” 

As she got into her second semester, McGuire said she built more connections and a community of support.

“[I was] going to basketball games. Just going to campus events, getting out there. I’ve done- well I’m doing the academics side, but now I can live the college experience how I want,” McGuire said.

While McGuire said she had a positive social experience on campus, Isabelle Starlin, a sophomore chemistry major from Wichita, Kansas, said she struggled making friends without in-person classes. 

“On a regular year, I would assume that you’d walk around the campus and you’d be like, ‘Oh yeah, I have French with this person, I have marketing with another,’ and so now there is a lot less knowing who’s on campus with you,” Starlin said. 

Starlin said she also dealt with depression in the fall of 2020 because of social distancing, lack of in-person classes and feeling isolated. She felt alone, barely left her room, stopped caring about her classes and almost completely gave up on social activities, she said. 

Starlin made connections in her sorority, which she joined in the fall of 2020. She said this decision became one of the major contributors to her mental health improvements over time.

The focus on her social life and sorority caused her to compromise her academics, she said. Because of this, at the start of summer, she decided to take a step back and attend community college.

“I failed a bunch of classes last year, and I didn’t like my major, so I decided to take a step back and figure out what I actually wanted to do and what I like,” Starlin said. “It was the right decision. I’m coming back in the fall of 2022, which will be a year break from KU.”

Unlike McGuire and Starlin, Connor Boehlje, a sophomore sports management major from St. Louis, chose not to be on campus for his freshman year.

Boehlje chose to stay home because all of his classes were online and being home would give him more time to focus on his schoolwork in an environment he was familiar with, he said. Boehlje said he has no regrets about how his freshman year went, but came in this year ready to get on campus and get involved. 

Boehlje joined an intramural volleyball league and started working out regularly in order to meet people. 

“I feel like, well, people are just really willing to talk right now because we’ve gone so long without having simple conversations,” Boehlje said. “I just go up to people [in the gym] and say, like, ‘Hey, how’s your day going?’”

Some of the biggest lessons he learned came from outside of the classroom, he said. 

“If you spend too much time feeling down about anything, like COVID for example, you’re missing out on things,” Boehlje said. “Instead of wasting your time dwelling on the feeling that things are not going your way, instead, use that time to really focus on flipping the switch.”

Another way he met people on campus was partying. It can be a great way to meet people, but can be a very controversial activity with the differing perspectives of safety, he said. 

“Some people they’re here and are like, ‘I get to do this now and no is going to stop me,’ and some people are like, ‘This could be a spreader,’ and some people, it’s just not their scene,” Boehlje said. 

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