The Ohio State University Alumni Association

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Jo McCulty

The ties that bind us are unbroken

As this strangest of academic years opens, with abundant caution and few of our most treasured traditions, we follow the lead of students who are driven to learn and adapt.

It’s the first day of fall semester, and the sun is rising over the Oval. A summer symphony of crickets and cicadas fades as students emerge from their residence halls and houses east of High Street. They are heading to 7:30 a.m. classes, stepping their way into a new year.

In quieter moments on campus, sitting under a tree canopy, you can almost forget about the virus. The one that has gripped the globe since early 2020 and sent students home in the spring. Five months later, here we are, back together while trying to stay 6 feet apart.

A lot has changed.

For this first day of classes to happen on Ohio State’s campuses, the university had to reconsider every aspect of the student experience.

In Columbus, move-in occurred over 12 days, without the warm greetings of Orientation Welcome Leaders (OWLs) — that army of energetic volunteers who made Ohio State’s seamless process a logistics marvel in years past. There were fewer family members to offer that one last hug at the curb. Final pictures in front of residence halls were taken with masks on.

Auditoriums and performance halls are learning spaces now. Classroom furniture is spread out to keep students and those teaching at a safe distance. Have a class with more than 50 people? You’re taking it online.

The Blackwell Inn has been converted into student housing. Dining halls are operating with mobile ordering and pickup. Gatherings are limited to 10 people, and student organizations’ events are on hold. Heartbreakingly, some of our favorite fall traditions are just not happening.

It would be easy to focus on all that’s changed, on all that’s being sacrificed. For sure, the college experience these students are having this year is different from anything alumni could imagine.

But, as I look out on the Oval on the first day of fall semester, I see a lot that is familiar, too.

I see students who are ready to learn together. I see people who are ready to push the boundaries of what we know today. I see people who are taking this very strange time and allowing it to shape their college experience in inspiring ways.

There is ingenuity in the dance class carrying its ballet barres to a tent on the South Oval. There is adaptability in the students moving their workouts outside on a hot summer day. Determination is everywhere, as students don masks and go about their days.

As the sun rises on the Oval, it rises on this new generation of Buckeyes.

In time, these students will show us what we can learn and how we can grow from this longest of walks.

What students are saying

We asked students what it's like to be on campus this fall — how COVID-19 has affected how they live and study and how they get together with friends. Like so many of us, they have mixed emotions.

Liz Webb

Liz Webb
Public Management and Leadership and Policy

“I’m focusing on making the most of my senior year, while also starting to explore the job search process. I’m coping with the pandemic by helping my community in any way possible and strengthening my friendships.”

Bailey Conrad

Bailey Conrad
Biochemistry

“It’s different, obviously, but I am excited to be here, walking around campus, being outside in this atmosphere. I am a little nervous just because so many adaptations have to be made. But it’s important we remain open-minded and willing to adapt to these times.”

Braxton Daniels III

Braxton Daniels III ’19
Sociology

“I love the feeling of being back on campus. I enjoy seeing classmates and helping freshmen. Being an art minor, I’m not the best online learner. But the faculty at the Mansfield campus makes it comfortable, and they’re patient.”

Angela Provenzano

Angela Provenzano
Occupational Therapy

“It’s exciting but nervewracking. I’m trying to make the most of any opportunity we have to interact with classmates or professors and really trying to be engaged in the learning environment. I feel like I took that for granted a lot before the pandemic.”

Faris Rehman

Faris Rehman
Computer Science

“My personal focus has shifted toward completing my education as swiftly as possible so I can get out there and do my part to make the world a better place. I think it’s clear that there’s a lot of work to be done to that end.”

Katherine Hunter

Katherine Hunter
Interior Design

“My focus is on my senior thesis as well as making sure my roommate and I stay as healthy as possible. We don’t go out with friends outside our quarantine circle, we exercise daily, and we are always reminding each other to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!”

Ishan Patel

Ishan Patel
Physics, president of BuckeyeThon

“I want to finish my final year in BuckeyeThon strong. Although our year looks different, we’re doing everything we can to fundraise for children battling pediatric cancer and blood disorders. I’m going to try my hardest to lead.”

Katia Martinez

Katia Martinez
Operations Management

“I am very happy to be back in school. I missed the interaction with professors and participating in class. I enjoy my morning walks through the Oval and seeing people. It’s my first year as a Buck-I-SERV board member, which has made me more excited.”

Faith Nimely

Faith Nimely
Accounting

“There are moments I’m exceedingly thankful to be back on campus. I’m happy I am working with residence life staff because we’re making a positive impact on residents. It’s nice to feel that sense of community in our effort to fight this virus.”

About the author

Monica DeMeglio

Monica DeMeglio is a content strategist in University Marketing. She was campus editor of The Lantern.