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Students reflect on accelerated summer semester, adjust to updated campus policies

Students share feelings of burnout, excitement for increased access to University facilities

As the final term of the University’s three-term calendar comes to an end, enrolled students have experienced varying degrees of burnout, an appreciation of increased opportunities for social interaction and an overarching anticipation for a return to normalcy. 

Due to the University’s implementation of an unprecedented tri-semester model for the 2020-21 academic year, first-year students, who were unable to fully enroll in the fall semester, are in the midst of four consecutive semesters without a significant break.

“The thought of doing four semesters pretty much back to back is a lot,” said Lily Swaine-Moore ’24. She decided to take a reduced course load — three classes, as opposed to the more common four — after an accelerated spring semester during which she and many of her peers reported experiencing burnout, Swaine-Moore said. 

Additionally, finding time to return home between the summer and spring semesters proved to be challenging for many students. 

Despite initial excitement for the prospect of a summer semester, “everyone’s getting kind of anxious to get home, and it’s hitting them now that they don’t really have any time at home,” said Omar Al-Jendari ’24, who is planning to leave campus early to be able to spend more time with family. 

Also, the break is “really only three weeks (long), so it’s kind of sad because for a lot of my friends whose school starts earlier, I don’t even get to see them,” said Mina Sarmas ’24.

Without a proper summer break, some students feel that they lack the time to reflect on their academic goals between school years. 

“Having time off and the chance to reflect on the experience so far would be helpful for my academic experience,” Swaine-Moore said. “So many of us are just so burnt out and we are going to struggle to keep up with work, and also (longing) just for the chance to reflect on our interests and what we want to do for concentrations.”

While many first-year students reported feelings of burnout, students in higher semester levels who spoke to The Herald shared less frustration around the accelerated semester and short break. 

Otto Olaffson ’23, who previously took classes remotely during the fall semester, said that being able to take some classes in person and utilize campus resources has helped him to feel “more stimulated” and “less burned out” than he did during prior pandemic semesters. 

The summer semester “for me was nice because I came back from being at home with my parents for 14 months, so I really enjoyed being back in Providence and seeing my friends and just being able to be in a college environment,” said Mara Kessler ’23.5. “I feel like I have it pretty good compared to what my friends were dealing with in the fall and the spring.” 

Unlike in the fall and spring semesters, the University was able to relax social distancing restrictions in the latter part of the summer semester and offer students a more traditional college experience, with perks such as extended access to libraries and in-person dining options, The Herald previously reported

Despite burnout, first-years echoed their older peers’ appreciation for the hints of pre-pandemic college life that had been notably absent for much of the prior year. 

Having more access to in-person campus life has “been a nice thing,” said Al-Jendari. “I wish we could have done it sooner, but it’s been really helpful … for people to finish the year strong.” 

Despite some excitement around University buildings opening up, first-year students expressed a common sentiment of loss. Because the vast majority of students on campus for the summer semester are underclassmen, many student groups have been semi-active or on hiatus.

“Even though things have been opening up, it’s still been kind of disappointing” to be unable to participate in club sports and other student activities, said Al-Jendari, a member of Brown’s rugby team, which has been unable to practice this summer. 

“It’s just kind of sad that a full year, a quarter of our entire college experience, is gone under such weird circumstances,” Swaine-Moore said. 

As campus returns back to normalcy, each student interviewed by The Herald expressed excitement about the chance to participate in student activities and become more integrated into the Brown community. 

“I’d like to get involved in more clubs … and get used to a regular college experience because we have been deprived of that this year,” said Al-Jendari. 

Emma Amselem Bensadon ’24, for one, is looking forward to in-person classes. “I feel like it’s much better for learning and more stimulating,” she said. 


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