When psychology senior Natasha Williams returned to Esperanza Hall for the fall semester, she was surprised to see the dorms operating at full capacity.
Williams, who was one of 230 Esperanza Hall residents during the spring semester, discovered there were up to three residents assigned to some dorms when they usually accommodate two people.
“I was here during the pandemic; there weren’t as many people,” Williams said in an interview on Aug. 17 inside the Central Academic Building lobby. “Now it’s packed. All filled.”
Amid the pandemic, Texas A&M University-San Antonio resumed in-person classes for the fall semester on Aug. 19. A majority of classes — roughly 80 percent in spring 2021, according to the Office of Institutional Research — had been held online for over a year in response to the coronavirus. As of Aug. 14, online classes represented 39 percent of all courses this fall.
Faculty and students seem hopeful for the new semester while remaining cautious.
The university welcomed back students on Thursday with the annual WOW block party in the Central Academic Building courtyard. Most event attendees roamed the courtyard without face coverings. While some attempted to stay close to their group, others had no regard for social distancing.
“I see a lot of people still not wearing masks…I don’t know if they’re safe,” Williams said.
Economics Adjunct Ashley Arriaga said it is exciting to be on campus and seeing campus life make a comeback.
“It’s always really fun to come back on the first day on campus,” Arriaga said Aug. 23 in an interview.
Pre-education sophomore Loretta Haley also said she is excited to start classes at A&M-San Antonio as this is her first semester at the university.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been in school, so I’m excited,” Haley said.
Nevertheless, Haley said she was scared to be on campus because she had siblings at home she worried about. Haley said she was trying her best to be safe and was glad to be fully vaccinated in time to return to campus.
Arriaga said it can be stressful returning to campus during the pandemic with all of the student accommodations, like providing slides, homework assignments and videos on Blackboard. It is mostly important to be flexible because students have different needs, she said.
“I think it’s that weird phase where everybody wants everything back to normal, and everybody just kind of wants to carry on,” Arriaga said.
Arriaga said her students are being cautious, proactive and communicating with her to be safe this semester.
Williams said she felt safe being back on campus as she continued to wear a face mask.
Both students and the university are doing their part to provide a safe environment, Arriaga said. She said it is important to make sure everyone is comfortable and safe as more people come back to campus.
“I know the school is doing a really great job at testing (and) making sure students are alerted,” Arriaga said.
Arriaga has taught classes on campus throughout the pandemic. All of her classes are in-person this semester and there are more students enrolled in her classes.
Despite the circumstances, Haley said she prefers taking face-to-face classes than online.
“I can actually see and learn more…instead of sitting behind my computer,” Haley said of in-person classes.
Arriaga said the university did seem more crowded this semester. This also has to do with the university’s growth, she said.
Williams said she believes there are more people on campus than there were before the pandemic started.
“I hope that this semester I just make it through with a breeze,” Williams said. “I don’t want to transition in the middle back to online because I prefer (classes) in-person.”