U of T recently announced an increase in in-person activities across all three campuses starting February 7. While some students and faculty have expressed concerns about safety measures on campus, other students are excited for a return to in-person classes. 

The Varsity spoke to a few U of T students, who are eager to return to campus, about their experiences with online learning and their thoughts on coming back. 

Mental health and online learning 

For all of the students who spoke to The Varsity, online learning was tough on their mental health. Ali Shah, a second-year history major, wrote in an email to The Varsity, “It has definitely negatively affected my mental health. Not being able to interact with fellow classmates has been challenging.”

Most students found that online classes negatively affected their learning. “I feel like many learning opportunities and experiences can only occur when you are physically in a classroom,” wrote Shah. 

Some students reported that online learning caused a lack of structure and support that they would have gotten in person. Mikayla Reitsma, a first-year life sciences student, wrote in an email to The Varsity that the lack of structure of online learning caused a lot of anxiety, as well as the lack of a support system to cope with isolation. 

Vlada Taits, a third-year political science student, wrote to The Varsity that it was tough to keep a consistent routine when learning online — especially since many classes are recorded for later viewing, making procrastination easy. “[It] gives me the illusion that my schoolwork is optional,” wrote Taits, who also echoed the sentiment of loneliness. “I also really don’t like staying inside and doing school. It makes me feel extremely isolated.”

The return to in-person 

When asked about the return to in-person learning, students largely said that they were excited to see friends and meet new people. “Being able to meet my friends in person and catch up after classes is super exciting. It’ll finally feel like I’m having a true university experience,” wrote Shah. They wrote that they’re excited to interact more with their professors, which is difficult to do over Zoom.

Reitsma was also looking forward to seeing classmates in person, noting that being in person helps with making friends more easily. She wrote, “Although having zoom and other things like breakout rooms is great, it’s not the same.” She added that she will benefit from hands-on learning as a STEM major, which can be difficult when you’re not in the lab.

“I’m most excited to see my friends in my classes and to finally feel like I’m at school again!” wrote Taits. “Also, I’m excited that a lot of my clubs and organizations are resuming in person events because it really adds to the community aspect.”