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On her first day back, Caroline Jacoby recounts the highs and lows she faced attending in-person school.

Caroline Jacoby 22, takes a selfie in the classroom she was assigned to on her first day back on campus.

Caroline Jacoby

Caroline Jacoby ’22, takes a selfie in the classroom she was assigned to on her first day back on campus.

Caroline Jacoby

Anyone who knows me would agree that I am definitely not a morning person, but I was eager to get out of bed early and get dressed for my first day back at school. Wearing jeans and a sweater was a welcomed change, and I felt optimistic about the transition back to normal. When I arrived on campus, I was greeted by a multipart check in process. As I waited in the line of spaced out stickers, I realized that I had yet to download the new Trace app, one of the three items required to check in, and I had to wait in a separate line while I figured that out.

I use a hearing aid and a cochlear implant, so hearing on Zoom has been a challenge all year, but the added background noise coming from other students talking in their classes and the rain outside the open windows only exacerbated these challenges. Several times, my cohort captain gave our group instructions during class time; in these instances, as I tried to listen to both my teacher on Zoom and my cohort captain, I probably missed about 90% of what was said.

When—despite the complete lack of rain all winter— it started hailing during lunch, my first thought was: “Of course it’s hailing today.” After all, the next day marked our one year anniversary of Zoom classes, and this whole year has felt like one long experiment with how ridiculous reality can possibly be. My English class even pointed out that watching some students masked in a classroom on Zoom was on par with the comical absurdity of Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying.” Thankfully, my day was much less morbid than the Bundren family’s journey in “As I Lay Dying,” though at some points it felt equally chaotic.

However, these hurdles were countered by a lot of funny moments which served as a reminder of why I miss in-person classes so much. The spontaneous conversations with my peers during breaks struck me as refreshingly normal. The little things, whether it was my cohort’s excitement about the rain or making a beaded bracelet on the quad during my free period, all felt like a return to “real life.” I appreciated the opportunity to break up the monotony of Zoom classes with some much needed social interaction, though I hope we will be able to move forward and have more of a real classroom experience later this year.