After three pandemic semesters, Wake Forest felt almost normal on Aug. 23 when students experienced their first fully in-person FDOC since 2019.
While individuals were wearing masks indoors, Hearn Plaza was filled with lively students embracing each other after a long summer break. Students ate Subway and Zick’s and took selfies in front of Wait Chapel with their friends.
Instead of a few students attending online classes outside of Benson, many could be found sitting together enjoying food from the newly-installed Yamas. Some followed Yamas with a stop at the Dating Deacons table to hopefully find a cute person with whom they could go out to start the school year.
Outside Johnson and Bostwick, freshmen were seen playing a game of Spikeball in between classes.
To celebrate the new school year, RUF started the day with a picnic on Davis Field, replete with some southern favorites: barbeque, chicken, coleslaw, baked beans and hush puppies — another sign of revival for Mother So Dear.
New students had positive first impressions about their professors and the academic environment at Wake Forest.
“Students are held to a high standard by professors and they are consistently working to uphold that,” Lauren Crosby, a freshman intending to major in biology, said.
Crosby was also pleased with the intimate setting inside classrooms and expressed that her FDOC experience gave her reassurance about her decision to attend Wake Forest.
“I was very happy to see that both of my entry-level classes had around 30 students,” Crosby said. “Today further proved that Wake Forest is definitely my home and I can’t wait to continue to explore it.”
While new freshmen began their college experience in person, the Class of 2024 had to begin their experience behind a screen. Despite an imperfect and tumultuous start to her undergraduate career, sophomore Camille Murashige was excited about in-person classes.
“I felt less disappointed about not having an in-person experience last year, and I’m excited on behalf of this incoming freshman class,” Murashige said. “It truly makes me happy that they get to have that as the beginning of their college experience. I love that, in a way, we’re all experiencing many ‘firsts’ together.”
As the junior class begins to delve deeply into their selected courses of study, some view the ability to return to in-person studies as a blessing.
“Returning to in-person instruction in biology and psychology courses is incredible,” Caleb Strickler, a junior, said. “It makes it easier to show how much you know, especially since there is a decrease in the number of open-book tests.”
For science majors, virtual versus in-person labs make a huge difference.
“I am excited to get back into the chemistry lab and run experiments,” Stuart Lewis, a junior majoring in chemistry, said. “Doing a virtual lab is not comparable to a real lab.”
Freshmen and seniors, going through their first and, in some cases, last FDOCs, respectively, had differing emotions.
“I felt very much ‘in the zone’ and I wanted to prove myself here,” freshman Alyssa Zaepfel said. “I started my day by reassuring my confidence and going at the day head first.”
For the senior class, FDOC was both exciting and sentimental.
“After the fact that I had to actually get dressed and look presentable for class for the first time in a year and a half, I felt extremely ecstatic to attend in-person class again,” senior anthropology major Christian Estrada said. “I was getting sick of ‘Zoom University’ and craved the school setting.”
For second-semester senior and politics major Katelyn Jones, the emotions were heavier because Monday was truly her last FDOC.
“Waking up this morning, I was sad,” Jones said. It feels like it’s been two years since I’ve felt a bit normal at college because of COVID-19,” Jones said. “I can’t believe that I was a senior because it still feels like I’m stuck in sophomore year.”
For Jones, the fact that this is her last semester didn’t quite settle in on Monday. In fact, it still hasn’t. However, after spending all summer preparing for the LSAT, she is ready to make the most of the limited time she has remaining at Wake Forest.
“I do feel sad, but I know I have an entire semester ahead of me to have fun, work hard, and enjoy Wake Forest for the last time,” she said.