Vermont colleges, students prepare for return to school

Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 4:13 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - College students are heading back to campuses across the country this month, and despite the delta variant, both schools and students are hoping for a more pre-pandemic environment.

“I’m definitely excited, but I definitely don’t feel as prepared as I would feel if I had had a normal high school experience,” said Katherine Hankes of South Burlington. She will be attending the University of Michigan in just a few weeks and while she’s excited to have a more “traditional” college experience, she says it’s still intimidating knowing some of her classes will be virtual. “I really hope that even though the COVID thing was challenging, everyone can take it as the reason to appreciate all the things they do have in the year to come.”

The University of Vermont is welcoming what is essentially two freshman classes, one of actual first-year college students and another class of rising sophomores who had an extremely different experience starting school during the pandemic. Despite recently reinstituting an indoor mask mandate, UVM will have 94% of classes in person and a full docket of exciting welcome week activities to encourage students to be social again after a year and a half of isolation.

“We have been intentional in making sure the traditions and opportunities for engagement -- that we know are high impact and really valuable -- are in place and ready to go and the opportunities to build and create community among students have been planned and are ready to go,” said 19 UVM’s Erica Caloiero.

Susie Graham, a rising senior, is among students we spoke to that are excited to be back in person again. “I think that’s going to be the biggest part. Not actually the learning but the social aspect of all those new distractions, sitting next to people, but I’m super excited,” she said.

“I think I’ll get into the swing of it eventually. I think I need a little bit of time to get a good work ethic going again and figure out how to focus more, but I think I’ll figure it out,” said Burlington resident Taige Tomlinson, who will be attending Queens University in Canada.

Middlebury College will also have a more pre-COVID appearance, with social interaction events, games, and ways to get familiar with the campus. They are also offering expanded counseling help this year as students adjust to new distractions and possible overstimulation. “That’s some of the stuff that we are going to be working on is helping students develop awareness of some of the stressors that you are experiencing may never have come across your mind as being stressors prior to the pandemic,” said the college’s Alberto Soto.

With classes still a few weeks away, schools are also monitoring the delta variant and will adjust their programming and schedules as they see fit.

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