Is fall 2021 easier?


A masked student studies in the William T. Young Library during the first day of classes for the fall 2020 semester on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Kaleb Littleton

We are approaching two years of this pandemic, and it’s been hard on everyone. Thankfully, though, between the vaccine and empathy from UK, it feels like things are improving.

Spring 2020 is a blur, one that I can barely remember in hindsight. Zoom felt like a temporary thing at first, a short-term novelty while the people in charge fixed everything that had broken.

When fall 2020 rolled around, I was beyond stressed. The university decided that they were going to cut down on breaks and rush through the semester. Something about going back to campus even one day a week paralyzed me. Catching the virus didn’t help. Imagine waking up early for a class that you don’t care about, with the addition of undiagnosed COVID, and then  trying to care about linguistics.

This expedited pace continued into spring 2021 for the university. That semester, I managed to get the vaccine, so I wasn’t as scared to be in public. However, that didn’t change the fact that I had six classes in a shortened semester, with no form of break. I remember having to turn off the camera on multiple occasions because I was on the verge of a panic attack. I got through it eventually, but it was exhausting.

It feels like someone at UK now understands the impact of the reduced breaks, because this semester doesn’t feel as bad. I’m fully vaccinated, everyone’s wearing masks, and it is going at a reasonable pace. However, I would hesitate to call this semester normal, because everyone still has a strip of cotton over their face.

Maybe I’m just numb to it all at this point. There were many points where it felt like I was going through the motions even during this semester. My grades have improved, though; I’m one of the few people that did better during the pandemic than before it. For a single semester I managed to be on the dean’s list — probably because I needed something to take my mind off of the constant death around me, or maybe my professors were grading on a curve considering the circumstances.

I have felt more comfortable being in public spaces on campus again. I’m able to sit in the Kernel office, the Student Center or the common area of the Cornerstone and just be a person without freaking out if people are around me. Over the past few months, I have felt comfortable eating out again and my nerves are a little more at ease. I’ve started going back to the gym to lose the pandemic weight, which I wasn’t willing to do for a while.

It’s also a good thing that I’m more comfortable being in public now, because social distancing in classrooms feels like it’s gone. One of my current classes is in the Cornerstone theater, so there’s nothing but room to spread out. Every other class I have is in Blazer, though, and there it feels like most people are crammed in next to each other.

This semester, I finally got around to working with the Kernel, mostly to finish my portfolio. But what I discovered after I joined was that the sense of community helped. Something about being able to joke about the virus or work on things at my own pace eased things a little. It hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been something. 

That said, I also graduate in a month. I only need a handful of classes, and that reduces the tension a lot. I highly doubt that “senioritis” is a valid and repeatable cure for the stress of the pandemic.

I don’t know what spring 2022 will feel like for those still here, but I hope that I’m not alone in feeling that the pressure was eased.