Class of 2024 transitions from Zoom school to nontraditional campus life

Aug. 6, 2021, 10:35 a.m.

DJ Rufino Maceda ’24 was not the only one experiencing senioritis in March 2020. In fact, he — like other members of the Class of 2024 — was somewhat excited to learn that everyone would be taking two weeks off to stop the spread of COVID-19. “Me and my friends were saying, ‘We need this two-week break, let’s get two weeks of quarantine!’” Maceda said. “And then we never came back. And then I never went to college.”

Despite the challenges of the past year, members of the Class of 2024 are getting ready — and are generally excited — to step foot on Stanford’s campus as sophomores. “I’m looking forward to seeing the ways we get back to normal and catch up to where we should be in terms of learning who we are, and learning from all the mistakes and successes we would have had in a normal year,” Maceda said.

If all goes smoothly, students will return to campus in September after a year of remote classes. (More than half of all students in the state of California did not attend school in person in the 2020-2021 school year, including most members of Stanford’s first-year class.)

However, for rising sophomores, there are few familiar faces and fewer familiar places. In the 2021-22 academic year, both frosh and many sophomores will be lost on campus, searching for new friendships and adjusting to college life amid the unprecedented consequences of a remote year. Some members of the class of 2024 report that they now have the resources and potential to go about their college experience with a deep sense of appreciation.

“There are people who are in way more dire situations than I,” said Ally Casasola ’24. “The fact that I’m still able to go to school and pursue a degree during this whole pandemic is still a great thing.” 

Casasola and other rising sophomores understand why they missed out on this year, and have come to terms with the fact that this year was simply different and the sacrifices they made were for the greater good. “I think the anticipation of waiting and not having that college experience readily available to us as freshmen, will just make those successive years even better,” Casasola said.

Many frosh and sophomore students are spending their summer quarter at Stanford taking classes. Lour Drick Valsote ’24, who is on The Daily’s staff, said this experience has proven invaluable to him and students like him with no prior exposure to campus life.

“I didn’t really get a lot of the community-oriented aspects of being a college student,” Valsote said. “I think the current model of being on-campus with taking online classes really gets the best of both worlds.”

Casasola hopes that some hybrid learning will remain next year. “I really love the flexibility of being able to watch a video on my own time, at my own speed,” she said. “I didn’t need to go from my bedroom to the actual classroom… I can literally just roll out of bed and watch videos.”

Virtual classes also provided a creative new way of learning that improved the understanding of new content for some. Jamie Ullman ’24 said he felt far more comfortable asking questions in the chat without interrupting the lecturer during classes and felt that his experience in large math and science courses were not negatively impacted by the remote conditions. 

Despite some benefits, students around the world experienced setbacks in virtual learning over the course of the pandemic. Some students experienced adverse mental health effects and a lack of motivation and fell behind as a result of the pandemic.

“I think [with] online learning it is very easy to get the impression that you’re just watching a Youtube video,” Casasola said. “Nothing feels very directed towards you.” 

Students reported a general lack of student engagement, both as they interacted with peers and with teachers. Maceda said that it is harder to make connections when everyone in a breakout room has their cameras off and microphones muted.

“I certainly think I got a Stanford academic experience, I wouldn’t say I got the full thing,” Rufino Maceda said.

With high vaccination rates among Stanford students, Stanford is slated to welcome its entire student body in the fall quarter.

“I’m really excited for what the fall quarter and future quarters have in store, especially because this will be the first time that our entire class will be together, and with the rest of the student body,” Valsote said. “So I am really looking forward to that.”

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