Back to Normal(-ish): Students Reflect on the Semester So Far...

At this time last year, when Commonwealth engaged in hybrid learning—with half of our population at school and half joining virtually from home—simply being together every other week felt precious. There was a depth of gratitude for simple pleasures: Meeting with an advisor outside on a bench. Large circles of friends scattered across the Commonwealth Mall at lunch. Studying in a quiet Dartmouth lobby before school.

This year, with myriad COVID safety precautions still in place, we are back to full in-person learning—and that gratitude has burst into true joy! (And a much noisier Dartmouth lobby, but we’re even grateful for that, too!)

Below, a few returning students reflect on the semester thus far and what it means to get back to (almost) “normal.” 

How does it feel being back in the classroom?

“It feels like coming home. I functioned fairly well working remotely, but I missed the spontaneity and sense of community of being in the building with my classmates.” —Milo ’22

“I really enjoy being back in person. Class is a completely different experience when you can feel the energy of the conversation.” —Margaret ’23 
“It is definitely a refreshing experience: being able to hang back after class and ask that one last question or chat with a group of friends in the Dartmouth lobby without planning a “meeting” are the kinds of small but meaningful and essential experiences about Commonwealth that I appreciate a lot more after our time together in online school.” —Ben ’23
“Surreal. Everyone is so much taller.” —Alex ’22

How has it compared to your expectations? To last year?

“The first few days of this year really felt like the start of a new normal that we may have in place until COVID is more resolved either as endemic or under control for good; it definitely feels different from fall 2019, but a lot closer to that than to the start of hybrid school last fall.” —Ben ’23
“I was surprised at how efficient everything was, from pathways to covid-testing. I guess less remote learning means less Zoom issues!” —Alex ’22 

“To be honest, these first few days have been a little overwhelming! We haven’t been back in school full time in about two years, so in some ways it makes a lot of sense. But, so far, my favorite things are the conversations throughout the day that just weren’t possible over Zoom.” —Margaret ’23  
“I expected this year to be much more like last year than it ended up being. I'm surprised by how little this year's Covid precautions get in the way of a normal school day.” —Milo ’22

What are your hopes for the year ahead?

“I hope to learn all of the sophomores' and freshmen’s names. I'm a bit behind.” —Alex ’22 
“My biggest hope for the year ahead is to get back to all the extracurricular activities, clubs sports, volunteering, and all the lost bonding between classmates in my junior class as well as among all the other grades. In particular I’m hopeful for our soccer season, with a great group of guys on our team this year, and that I’ll also be able to participate in Model UN, Debate, Newspaper, Chess Club, Go Club, Politics Club, Community Service Club, and, eventually, as a peer advocate. (So far there have been more than a few scheduling conflicts between all the clubs I would like to be able to attend.)” —Ben ’23
“My hope for the year ahead is to truly settle into life at Commonwealth.” —Margaret ’23 

“There is still so much I want to do at Commonwealth—academically, socially, in clubs—and I want to get to as much of it as possible. I'm planning to keep my schedule full and stay as engaged in everything as I can.” —Milo ’22

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