Photo Courtesy of Kaashif Hajee.

Students Attend In-person Classes for the First Time in Over a Year

Some NYU Abu Dhabi students return to classrooms after a year of virtual learning. We speak to some of them to understand their experience.

Apr 10, 2021

After a year of virtual classes, some NYU Abu Dhabi students returned to classrooms, with masks and maintaining social distance, for the first time. The Gazelle sat down with Jianna Jackson, Class of 2024, Angad Johar, Class of 2022 and Grace Bechdol, Class of 2023 to understand more about their individual experiences with in-person classes.
All students remarked that it felt a little surreal to have an in-person class as they have been studying online for almost two semesters and the experience proved to be very different from pre-pandemic classes.
“I have not had an in-person class for a year and three weeks and so this was, to put it lightly, surreal,” expressed Jackson.
“It is heartfelt to have an in-person class after so long,” added Johar. “I mean it was weird, I didn’t know what to expect and it put the whole thing into perspective, I realised I was entering the classroom after more than a year. I think, it just, more than anything, reinforced how long it has been.”
“I had forgotten what it is like to sit in a classroom and take notes on paper without any distractions. It definitely met my expectations,” shared Bechdol.
However, these in-person classes were very different from the pre-pandemic normality due to added Covid-19 restrictions. Before the pandemic, students used to interact with one another and the mutual exchange of ideas was expected. Now, students have adapted to the online environment to such an extent that it felt a little strange to be in a physical classroom.
Jackson shared exactly how different an in-person class was from a pre-pandemic class: “From my in-person classes back home, we were closer, there was no such thing as cognisance of physical boundaries and there was definitely no mask and there was no care in the world and no surrealness.”
Photo Courtesy of Kaashif Hajee.
When it comes to Covid restrictions, social distancing rules were in place and it was ensured that students abided by them. “It did not feel unsafe at all because the desks were properly distant and everyone was following the rules,” added Johar.
Even with the restrictions in place, students found in-person classes preferable to online classes.
“We were distant and wearing our masks but just being in the presence of my professor was seriously mind blowing,” shared Jackson. “The class had an energy that was unmatched and that was spectacular.”
Bechdol even suggested that she learned more from the first two sessions of her in-person class than she has learned in the most of her semester. Johar mentioned that while he took virtual classes, it felt more like “living on the laptop,” whereas taking the in-person class felt more humane and real.
For Bechdol, having in-person classes was such a defining moment that she and her roommate celebrated by dressing up in evening gowns to class. The professor also dressed up with them.
Photo Courtesy of Kaashif Hajee.
Johar noted some moments when he felt the impact of face-to-face connections: “It felt really great to hear laughter, to hear applause and also to sit in awkward silence, because that also felt very different and I had forgotten how it felt in-person … It was much easier to focus than on Zoom where it's very, very easy to zone out,” he observed.
“It was almost surreal to sit with other people around you and to not open your laptop for an entire class,” he added. “It felt like an event, [which] was weird because two years ago, going to a classroom would be the opposite of an event.”
Laura Assanmal and Abhyudaya Tyagi contributed reporting.
Vimal Karimbhai Minsariya is Deputy News Editor. Email him at
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