As students return to UNC Asheville’s campus for the spring semester some students are optimistic about the future despite both online and in-person classes taking place.
With the COVID-19 pandemic pressuring the public into isolating themselves, some students have come up with their own ways to make the best out of their circumstances, and found that staying optimistic about the situation would guarantee a positive outcome.
“My overall mood is more uplifting,” said Jack Cook, a returning UNCA student majoring in theater as a junior. “I’m not a person who works well with solitude, it’s been a huge boost to be without a family who drives me insane.”
Students returned to campus for the spring 2021 semester the week of Jan.15, allowing time to prepare before classes began on Jan.19. Everyone on campus was required to take a COVID-19 test that gave negative results before returning for the spring semester after a long winter break.
Though the stress of COVID-19 threatened to ruin their campus experience, students stayed hopeful about returning back to classes and friends.
The passion of Cook’s excitement was shared by his roommate, Zack Nelli, a junior majoring in music technology.
“The change in the people is nice and less monotonous, because the limited amount of people I’ve been seeing has been better than the family I was with all winter break,” Nelli said.
The UNCA campus still adheres to protocols designed to protect students against the virus. More dining and take-out options are available to keep students in their dorms while common dining areas like Brown Hall and Highsmith Student Union limit the amount of people sitting at them.
With COVID-19 precautions set in place, students focus on how the influx of safety measures affects the way they start their new semester. Nelli said he felt UNCA’s safety protocols have been effective and kept students safe.
“Yeah, I really do. There isn’t much else to reinforce, and Asheville is doing their best, even if it’s difficult to adjust to,” Nelli said.
Nelli isn’t the only one who shares this sentiment. Aaron Mathey, a sophomore at UNCA agreed with the policies and believes UNCA is doing a moderately good job at keeping students safe.
Despite how well UNCA keeps up with safety, COVID-19 remains stressful for other students. An important stress factor prevalent in students on campus is class both in-person and online
“Something I think will be most challenging this semester is just existing during COVID. I have to work with a mask on, which isn’t fun at all,” Lily Taylor said.
Taylor, a sophomore with a job in maintenance on campus, said she knows first hand how important it is to keep mentally healthy while also staying safe.
“Be kind to yourself- take breaks if you can, and don’t push your limits. It’s a difficult time, and it’s important to do your best during COVID,” Taylor said.
Mathey shared some guidance for students with worries about what this semester may do to their mental health.
“Honestly, just get out of your room. Even if it’s just to go sit in the library, it’s so good for you, I promise,” Mathey said.
“Rely on your friends, because they will be your best resources,” Cook said.
Friends aren’t the only resources available to UNCA students. The Health and Counseling center focuses on allowing students a safe place during stressful times, free of charge. The center allows students to schedule an appointment through the number on their website and posters throughout campus.
Mental health is taken seriously at UNCA, especially during the current pandemic. In order to stay safe both physically and mentally, students can reach out if needed.
As the semester begins and students are given first impressions of the second semester of campus life, optimism is key to allowing for a great second half to the year. Despite COVID-19 and it’s effects on how UNCA operates, they remain open and allow students the opportunity to learn in a healthy, safe environment.
“Try to make the most of it,” Nelli said.