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Gonzaga freshman Katie Chicca felt her first semester of college, spent at home, mimicked her high school routine. 

On Nov. 17, Gonzaga University announced a continuation of the hybrid learning model for the extent of spring semester, barring any additional restrictions from Washington State or the Spokane Regional Health District. Each and every Zag will have the option to attend courses in person, online or a combination of the two. 

Additionally, earlier announcements of a delayed starting date, Jan. 19, and the annexation of spring break were not changed.

With study aboard officially canceled, the entire GU student body is once again presented with the daunting decision of how they want to learn.

Following the first full semester amid the ever-present coronavirus, Zags now possess a grasp of what collegiate life and education in a pandemic are like; a test drive of the conditions of various types of learning.

With a clean, four-week break to decompress, some Zags are taking a new year, new me approach to their mode of instruction and previous virtual students are electing to make the return to in-person education. 

“[Online learning] was really weird, you kind of just wake up, roll out of bed and log into class,” Katie Chicca, a freshmen psychology major, said. “It’s isolating, too. Tough to meet new people and make new friends.”

Chicca’s decision to learn remotely from her childhood home in San Diego, California, was not entirely her own. Her parents, both of whom are scientists, wanted to take all precautions possible, resulting in a first semester of college that struggled to be any different from senior year of high school.

“I just had my whole entire same high school routine,” Chicca said. 

With January providing her with the first opportunity to actually set foot on GU’s campus as an active student, Chicca greatly looks forward to the new year.

“Being in social settings again is going to be really fun and it will be super nice to finally meet my roommate in person,” Chicca said.

The return to the classroom does not only excite new Zags with a delayed start to their freshmen year. Beatriz Wygant, a junior nursing major, looks forward to in-person instruction after a long semester away. Despite moving into a Logan Neighborhood house in the late summer, she endured a strictly remote semester.

With the beginning of her clinicals and other hybrid courses, Wygant finally returns to her preferred method of instruction after an unintended semester away.

 “It wasn’t really my decision, all my classes were just online,” Wygant said. “I feel like I’ll definitely be more motivated to learn in-person since online is so easy to just turn your screen off and not pay attention.”

Wygant noted the added difficulties that come with staring at a screen all day. 

“I feel like I didn’t have a connection with any of my professors, I don’t really know them, and they didn’t really know me. It’s nobody’s fault, it’s just difficult to get to know somebody through a screen," Wygant said. 

While virtual learning presented students more challenges than it was worth, some Zags agree that “Zoom University” did offer some benefits over traditional instruction. 

“I’m going to miss being able to turn off my camera and take a break when I’m feeling tired but it’s probably for the best,” Wygant said.

As this anything-but-traditional semester crawls toward its waning moments, students must begin to consider how they want to proceed come the new year.

Zach Walls is a staff writer. Follow him on Twitter: @ZachWallsTV.

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