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'How university is supposed to feel': Students, faculty return to University of Saskatchewan

The University of Saskatchewan. (CTV Saskatoon) The University of Saskatchewan. (CTV Saskatoon)

The University of Saskatchewan campus was full with students and faculty once again Monday.

After months of holding classes online and limiting in-person learning due to COVID-19, the university resumed classes as per normal.

Second-year student Giorgianne Magrama started her fourth semester last month. Monday was the first time she’s seen the 115-year-old campus.

“This is actually my first time on campus. I graduated in 2020, so it just feels unreal to actually be here and to kind of start in the middle of the school year is kind of nice. It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Magrama said.

“I’m enjoying it so far.”

Last week, the university’s Pandemic Response and Recovery Team announced its intentions to welcome back all students on campus for Monday, citing a “levelling off” of new positive COVID-19 cases, a high uptake in booster doses and a 99 per cent vaccination rate for students and staff who planned to return to campus Monday.

On Christmas Eve, the university announced a delay to the start of the winter term as Omicron began spreading across Saskatchewan. Instead of starting on Jan. 5, classes were pushed back to Jan. 10, with the expectation of holding remote learning until Jan. 24, which was continued until Monday.

Law student Erica Focht is one of the students who was able to attend class in-person throughout the pandemic. Seeing large crowds and hearing fits of laughter was unusual compared to the previous three terms since COVID-19 disrupted post-secondary learning.

“It makes it feel like how university is supposed to feel,” Focht said.

“Especially the arts building. (It) was completely empty last semester, and walking through it this morning, I forgot how busy it gets in there. It’s kind of nice.”

Wyatt Pomarenski wasn’t feeling so welcomed on his first day on campus. His only class of the day required him to write a midterm exam.

“It’s great. Online (I was) struggling a bit. It wasn’t too much fun. When I was here in the first semester it was just five guys walking around. That’s all I ever saw — the same faces. Now, everyone’s out. It’s good. (You) love to see it. It’s nice getting back to some sort of normalcy.”

With online learning taking its toll on many students, both Pomarenski and Magrama not only felt comfortable being at the U of S, they longed for it.

“I couldn’t sleep last night, but I think it was (the) good kind of nerves,” Magrama said. “We’ve been in isolation for so long, so it’s really nice to be back around a lot of people.”

Magrama said the format of online learning was fun to start with, but it eventually blended her academic and personal life into one. Being able to hop on the bus and attend class in-person has helped her divide the two once again.

“There’s a nice separation now that I wasn’t able to appreciate before,” she said.

The university said some extracurricular activities not directly associated with teaching, learning and research will be phased back to in-person by Feb. 21. Top Stories

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