With in-person fall semester looming, students are struggling to find study space

“I feel like I’m in a time warp and I lose track of time and reality,” is how Manya Kapur described her experience studying on campus throughout COVID-19.

Despite living on campus for the past semester, Kapur, a third-year psychology major and law and society minor, has felt limited by the facilities that are available for students to use as study space.

“It’s really disorienting to just stay in my room … the full day and study. So it’s really important to get out because I feel like it really affects my mental health on the days I stay in my room and study … and going out isn’t always an option,” Kapur said.

Despite the suspension of in-person classes, many students still live on campus and are unable to use most facilities. The Irving K. Barber Learning Centre is offering bookable study spaces and the Nest is open seven days a week but most other buildings remain closed.

The study space that is available comes with its own challenges — a lack of outlets and places to eat means that studying outside of residence isn’t always a viable choice.

In a recent press conference, Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that indoor dining will be suspended until April 19 as part of a “circuit breaker” to curb rising case numbers. The AMS has further limited study space available in the Nest by reduced seating capacity to comply with BC’s new provincial health orders. Study space has also been limited with film productions closing the Nest.

UBC’s fall 2021/22 semester is slated to be in-person, with preparations being made to accommodate quarantine time for international students, planning for transit, study spaces, and space for on-site vaccination.

Details about the reopening of campus facilities have not yet been finalized. UBC Media Relations Director of University Affairs Matthew Ramsey said in a statement to The Ubyssey that “all planning is being done in accordance with health guidelines and in consultation with health agencies and WorkSafe B.C.” Information about study spaces is not yet available.

“We recognize this has been a long year for students, faculty and staff and there is anticipation building for Winter Term 1 2021, but the planning for increased on-campus activity needs to be done properly and that takes time,” Ramsey wrote.

Though Kapur is looking forward to the reopening of campus, she also expressed concerns about student safety.

“There is going to be some paranoia when we’re … approaching each other and figuring out what interactions can look like now,” Kapur said. “You can’t just expect students to do the right thing because … not everyone has the same regard for public health and safety.”

UBC recently had a COVID-19 outbreak at UBC Hospital and multiple COVID-19 exposures in first-year residences.

Shaon Talukdar, a first-year business and computer science student, echoed those feelings.

“We’re at a point where I feel uncomfortable when people don’t have masks on in cars … I think there would be some time where we would all be really uncomfortable, but I think we would be in a really nice place moving forward [with vaccinations].”

Like most first-year students, Talukdar has never attended classes in-person or used UBC facilities. Talukdar expressed excitement about coming to campus for the first time.

“I think that’d be a really cool point where we could actually see what all these places we’ve been hearing about and all these resources that we’ve just had no idea we had access to,” Talukdar said.

Ramsey emphasized that UBC students will need to be patient when waiting for details about the upcoming in-person semester.

“Restarting things, planning for returning to on-campus activity is not like flicking … a switch. There’s a lot of work that goes into it,” Ramsey said.

“This is a massive organization and there will be many questions … in the months ahead. Our primary goal will be to communicate those answers.”