After a year of varying online learning experiences, transitioning to in-person classes looks different for everyone.

It’s 7:00 a.m. Your alarm rings. You hit snooze a few times too many before rolling out of bed. Class starts at 8:10, but instead of logging onto Zoom with half-brushed hair and pajama bottoms on, you get dressed, eat some breakfast, make sure your backpack is equipped with the necessary supplies and head out the door to your first in-person class in 18 months.

For many of us, the once normal, in-person college experience has become foreign over the past year and a half. While Zoom lectures and breakout rooms were tedious at first, they soon became a part of our everyday lives. Now, as we make our way to in-person class, we are lost, confused, tired and are having a hard time adjusting back to what we once knew.

Besides the adjustment to in-person instruction again, many of us are returning to campus or are living here for the first time. That in itself is a transition that many of us are still navigating.

If you can relate to anything mentioned above, know that you are not alone and that the shift from online class to in-person will look different for everyone. Several students here at APU have voiced similar struggles of their return to in-person instruction. Some students, on the other hand, have found their switch to be rather smooth.

Katie Rehberger, a junior biochemistry and honors humanities major, said that her transition back to campus and in-person learning has been draining both mentally and physically. 

“It’s hard to get everything done that you need to do because you want to be socializing, but then you’re exhausted… You have to remodify your priorities,” she said.

Lack of sleep and time management are also newfound struggles for Rehberger. When school was online, she was free to wake up five minutes before class started. Now, she has to get up an hour earlier to make time for breakfast and getting ready to leave her apartment.

Rehberger also mentioned that many professors expect her and her classmates to be familiar with in-person lab work that they have only performed online. Even little things, like whether or not she will need to buy scantrons for her tests, have become questionable for Rehberger. 

Lindsey McNeely, a junior kinesiology major, also expressed how transitioning back to in-person learning has posed a challenge for her. Similar to Rehberger, McNeely has also struggled with time management, waking up earlier and getting back into the routine she had as a freshman.

“I think this transition has been a little bit difficult, but it’s not horrible … I know the routine from freshman year, I know how to do this, but doing that again [has been] hard,” she said.

Junior kinesiology and honors humanities major Clifford “Cliff” Young III credits the proximity to other people for his smooth transition back to in-person learning. 

“Being back within the energy of people is more helpful for me than being distanced… I feed off of that energy. It’s a lot more tiring when you have to do everything by yourself.”

Young highlights the importance of surrounding ourselves with other people, and how even though we may be more physically drained from waking up earlier than we’re used to, our mental, social and emotional batteries have the opportunity to be filled by the presence of others once again.

Joshua Jantz, a junior chemistry and honors humanities major, has also found the increased connection with classmates helpful and also highlighted the important role our professors play in our smooth return back to in-person instruction. 

“Having all the professors [be] super grateful and super gracious that everyone’s coming back just makes it a lot easier,” he said.

Similar to the energy we often get from being in the presence of our friends, engaging with professors who are excited and welcoming of our return makes our transition one we can look forward to rather than detest.

As I’ve readjusted to life on campus and class in-person, three things have helped me with the recent shift in place and schedule. 

1. Leaning on community 

Now that we are back in person, we have the wonderful gift of each other’s presence. Let’s not take that for granted again. As much as I appreciate my friends for being there for me — whether it’s emotionally or simply needing a ride — they also make me laugh and forget about the stress that school so often brings.

If I learned anything from last semester, it’s that anxiety and worry thrive in our isolation. So if the start of this semester has been bumpier than you expected, call a friend — I can almost guarantee you’ll feel better afterwards.

2. Getting some quality shut-eye

It goes without saying that getting quality sleep will improve your energy and overall mood the next day. Unfortunately, college students tend to put sleep on the back burner — which means a lot more stress and irritability. Not exactly the best combination for a big transition.

My solution? Make sleep as much of a priority as your schoolwork and social life. I promise it is doable. Here are 10 tips from Everyday Health to get you started.

 3. Establishing a routine that gets me excited for each day

Personally, one of the hardest parts of moving on campus and attending in-person class again has been figuring out a rhythm. After living at home for a year and half, I became used to the routine I had established there. Being pulled out of that and placed in a completely different environment with added responsibilities had initially caused me to feel disoriented and unsettled.

Now, after a couple weeks, I feel much more established and rooted in my schedule because I’ve created new rhythms and routines that I get to look forward to each day, like making a cup of tea and enjoying quiet time on the balcony each morning.

Figure out what works for you and what gets you excited to take on (or wind down) the day.

I wish you all a wonderful and Christ-filled first semester back on campus. We’ve got this!