Back to school: a return to normal?

By Daniel Adam
Genuine certified student

Parents watch the calendar, counting the days. Kids enjoy the summer, praying that time stops. Like it or not, the back-to-school season is soon — if not already — upon us.

As I ponder my own return for a final year of post-secondary education, I’m struck with a realization. For it to make sense, here is some background on my schooling.

I am currently enrolled in a joint program with The University of Winnipeg and Red River College Polytechnic. I had almost a full year of non-COVID studies at U of W before global pandemic lockdowns. Following a full year of online school at UW, I finished my first year at RRC Polytech this spring. We were primarily online, but did have a number of enjoyable in-person activities.

Now, as I prepare to return to my home in Winnipeg, I realize that everyone talks of a return to normal, yet I am returning to a normal I never knew.

When I set foot in the Exchange District Campus, I will not be used to seeing more than about 30 people in the building at a time. Though I’ve spent a year at RRC Polytech, I’ve really only spent a couple weeks physically there.

I don’t know what the campus looks or sounds like with a full student body. I’m not sure what projects go on in the halls, how busy Tim Hortons is in the mornings, or which of my classmates will always walk in late with a coffee in hand. I’m looking forward to learning these things.

Among other things, I look forward to attending my in-person sessions without needing to don a mask. This year, as I specialize in media production, being on campus will likely be beneficial for our learning purposes. Hands-on work will be much simpler if you can actually get your hands on the equipment. Whatever this year brings, I know it’ll be a much different experience than the past few, but will it be better?

Believe it or not, I’m also one of the few who enjoyed online learning. I couldn’t do it forever, that’s for sure, but I very much liked skipping the commute. On cold winter days, I could stay inside and not have to get up early to miss a bus that never came. And when it did come, there were so many people packed onto the bus that I could hardly move.

But though I’m not a fan of buses, I think a return to in-person learning may be a good thing. I always had a blast last year when we’d come in person. There’s something about connecting with real people that makes you realize it’s essential.

The way our program is set up, we take all the same classes with the same people, so we became a tight-knit group. Chatting with them helped the crushing weight of our program’s workload seem much lighter. School is immensely easier on one’s mental health knowing that everyone is in it together.

It’s nice to be able to connect with both classmates and teachers, which pre-pandemic Daniel might’ve said doesn’t really matter all that much.

It does.

You can make friends with your colleagues and instructors, and excel your learning in the process.

So as much as I enjoyed skipping the bus stop, I really do believe this will be my greatest year of school yet. The triumphant return to campus might be worrisome for some, but I know that the 2022-23 school year has great things in store.