‘Everyone wants to get back to normal’: Students look toward an unusual return to campus

Putnam Hall at Kansas State, like other buildings on campus, has remained mostly empty during the pandemic. (Dalton Wainscott | Collegian Media Group)

Thousands of students are set to return to Kansas State in just two weeks. Students will file into the dorms, dining halls and classrooms, but it won’t look like it usually does.

Now, campus will have more hand sanitizer than handshakes. For many returning students, this will be quite a different look. For others, these unique circumstances will be in place when they come to campus for the first time.

Rising freshman in mechanical engineering Ethan McAtee says he’s excited to come to Manhattan — despite the pandemic.

“It’ll definitely be interesting coming in with COVID and everything.” McAtee said. “I think [coming to K-State] is still gonna be a great experience.”

Some plans, however, will have to change.

“Me and my friends were all like talking about visiting each other, but now we’re like, we don’t know what we’re gonna do,” McAtee said.

Chris Simkins, soon-to-be sophomore in biochemistry, says he’s mostly concerned with what other students will do off-campus and how that will impact on-campus life.

“I just hope that students just have some common sense so we can solve all this faster,” Simkins said.

Simkins also said he’s preparing for a possible return to online-only classes. All instructors — whether they start out online-only or not — are expected to incorporate some degree of online education into their course plans, vice provost for institutional effectiveness Brian Niehoff said previously.

Though Simkins said he doesn’t feel like online classes in the spring really hurt his education, he is concerned about how his scheduled labs for this semester might operate if remote learning becomes necessary again.

“If I’m not able to physically work in a lab then I’m, you know, losing valuable experience that I can use down the line,” Simkins said.

A return to normalcy is something both students hope will come soon.

“Everyone wants to get back to normal, the only way we can do that is by following the CDC guidelines,” Simkins said.