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Introduction

We completed our first ever online semester and have already started a new one. While many of us faced problems in dealing with an online semester, students who returned to the campus had to face different kinds of challenges and experiences. We reached out to some students from different years and programs who have returned to the campus and asked them about their reasons for returning, the onboarding process, the reception and response of the institute and their satisfaction with the safety protocols on the campus. This article gives an insight into their lives in insti behind closed doors.

Note: The identities of the respondents haven’t been revealed at their behest.

Reasons for coming back

We reached out to students from different years and programs to get an understanding of the reasons that they had for returning to the campus. These 2 were the primary ones :

1. Internet connectivity Issues and power outage- Several students of our institute are still facing severe connectivity issues and they have no choice but to come back to the institute.

“The nearest broadband connection provider is 90Km away from my home, and I have only one option, which is a cellular data connection, and that is not enough for any live interaction and downloading the videos is also very slow due to low network speed. There is an average 4-5 hours of power cuts in a day.”

2. Coping stress- Some students are experiencing a pronounced lack of productivity and deterioration in mental health because of this sudden change in lifestyle. Not having a fixed schedule, a proper study environment, screen fatigue and most notably, the effects of social isolation have been difficult for all of us, bordering on unbearable for some. These students have been graciously accommodated on the campus. 

“The conditions at home were not at all conducive to engage in any academic pursuit and were putting a strain on my parents as well as myself.” 

The on-boarding process

The institute administration was very quick to respond to student requests and, according to our interviews, the onboarding process has been quite smooth. All of our respondents were quite happy with the way the institute received them and executed their onboarding process –

“I initially mailed the Dean about the issues, I got a reply within 24 hours and he told me they are also working on bringing back students to campus having genuine problems and advised me to talk to the HOD of my department.” 

“A mail to the HOD followed by some personal interaction with the student to get a better grasp of the problems faced followed by some form-filling. Then a pre-arrival form to give a tentative comeback date. There might be a considerable time gap between any two steps of the process but this is justified by the measures that the institute is taking in to mitigate risk of contagion from newcomers.” 

 “I requested the authorities to let me travel to the campus in the middle of the semester (in early October) so that I could stay at home for a little longer. The authorities accommodated my request and also helped me in planning my return”

“Around half a dozen documents with detailed guidelines have been conveyed to me so far. The extent of planning institute authorities have done to keep the students safe is commendable. During the whole conversation with Insti authorities, I could sense the concern for the safety and well-being of students.” 

Situation Inside the Campus 

The situation inside the campus has changed quite a bit from where we left it. According to the residents, there are some prominent and strictly enforced safety protocols within the campus premises –

“After coming to the institute, we are supposed to follow a 14-day quarantine according to BMC rules. There are prior arrangements for mattress, bucket, masks, sanitizer in the room and safety kits. In the mess, there is a separate area for quarantined students, plexiglass barriers on each table and special taps for hand washing.”

“We strictly have to follow the norms given by the institute. Some of them are: using the mask when you are not in the room, no more than 2 students gathering in labs, cafeterias or anywhere else on the campus.”

“Overall I am happy about my decision about coming back to the institute. If you follow the norms and take necessary precautions, I think there is nothing to worry about.”

Hostels have common washrooms and wash basins, which can be a concern for some. But the institute has taken measures to address this too, by modifying the taps in the washrooms and messes such that they can be operated by foot.

There are also things you should keep in mind after completing all the formal documentation before taking your journey to the campus. You will not be allowed to go outside the campus as per guidelines. A few stationery and general stores on campus are operational now, but ensure that you pack basic necessities such as masks, thermometer, sanitizer and a medicine kit. And perhaps most disappointingly, only one night canteen is operational, so don’t rely on the once routine midnight meal!

All these restrictions are necessary to ensure the well being of the students inside the campus. However, on the flip side this has led to a very reclusive and lonely atmosphere for students coming back to the campus, It is definitely something you should consider if you are planning to come back to the campus in the current Spring semester.

“The atmosphere is far different than it used to be before COVID. No friends. Travelling out of the campus is completely restricted for obvious reasons. It’s just a better place to do any work; to temporarily insulate oneself from the issues back at home. It’s like a ghost town post 10. No soul in sight. Hope the junior batches won’t have to spend their final year like this.”

Conclusion

The institute administration has done a commendable job of receiving and accomodating the returning students comfortably without compromising on their safety. The safety protocols and measures taken by the institute have been fairly effective, if not fully successful in curbing contagion inside the institute. With the influx of students expected to increase in the coming weeks, maintaining these protocols will be a challenge. So we request all returning students to sincerely adhere to the safety protocols for the greater good of all campus residents. The experience thus far has been positive, albeit the campus is a shadow of its usual lively self. Hopefully, we all are at the cusp of a much awaited return to the campus. In the meanwhile, let us appreciate the efforts of students and faculty alike who are working to ensure that we can seamlessly transition into normalcy soon!

 

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Chief Editors: Amogh Gawaskar and Suman Mondal

Mail to: insight@iitb.ac.in