The Tamaraw Homecoming

FEU Advocate
March 12, 2022 04:23

By Yuichi Desquitado and Rafa Jane Galeon

Schools are starting to revert to conducting physical classes while adhering to the guidelines set by the Department of Health (DOH) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED). The much-awaited return in “thy happy halls” has surely made the Tamaraws feel different emotions; nostalgia for old-time Tamaraws, and new experiences for the freshmen and sophomores. Despite the different experiences, one thing is common: the good feeling of finally coming back home.

Different schools, including Far Eastern University (FEU), are starting to once again open the campuses to students, university employees, outsourced personnel, contractors’ personnel, concessionaires’ personnel, and visitors, while ensuring their compliance to the guidelines set by the school to ensure the safety and security during and after the visit.

Despite the lengthy and detailed guidelines, most of the Tamaraws think more about the relief of finally returning to the campus. For some, returning means seeing their friends, either again or for the first time, helping themselves to fulfill their #FrienshipGoals physically and personally. Some perceive it as an opportunity of finally having a proper space for learning and pursuing their dream, then some think of it as temporary freedom from family space.

Possibly labeled as the “most-awaited” announcement, face-to-face (F2F) classes were finally happening. Yet the most curious thing out of the phenomenon is what the students think about the homecoming of the Tamaraws and how well the students have received it.

Tamaraws react: limited face-to-face classes

Upon hearing the news that FEU will be offering limited face-to-face classes, many students expressed a range of emotions, anticipating that life would return to normal, albeit the new normal.

"I got excited, of course," Sophia Beatrice Alcazaren, a fourth-year Medical Technology student, said when she heard the news of the limited face-to-face classes, "because, after almost two years of online classes, we would be able to go back to FEU, especially since our program needs hands-on practice," she added.

When asked about her expectations, Alcazaren stated that she expected fewer people on campus and in the classrooms, but she did not anticipate that the fourth-year MedTech students would only be allowed to attend for eight days until the next batch’s turn to attend the limited face-to-face classes for another eight days. Therefore, the eight-day limited face-to-face classes for each batch dismayed her because she was expecting to experience and learn more things that will be of help for her future career in the medical field from this semester’s limited face-to-face classes.

Moreover, another fourth-year MedicalTech student, Katrina Garcia, heard that there will be limited face-to-face classes in FEU; she expressed similar views to Alcazaren. She claimed she felt both excited and terrified due to the opening of limited face-to-face classes amidst the numerous COVID-19 cases, which had been gradually decreasing.

In terms of her expectations, Garcia anticipated that only a few students will be prepared for the limited face-to-face time because the University will be enforcing strict health protocols.

James Jonas Pilpa, also a fourth-year Medical Technology student, expressed his delight on the limited face-to-face classes because he will finally see his friends and classmates after two years of quarantine. Aside from that, he said that since their profession requires technical skills, which they found difficult to study during the pandemic because it was discussed in an online format, so he was not able to maximize the full experience and he expected to catch up on those hands-on technical skills that medical careers require.

On the other hand, Angelos Sescar, a third-year Accountancy student, said that the limited face-to-face classes gave her mixed feelings about the start of the second semester.

She did not expect much because it would be a limited face-to-face class, but she was expecting the University to enact stronger measures to prevent the virus from spreading within the Tamaraw community, and that the University is already prepared for the possible contamination of the virus.

Apart from that,  Kevin Ryan Francisco, a third-year BS Applied Mathematics - Data Science Track student, has also expressed his initial reaction after hearing the news. “I felt relieved that I will be able to go back to the campus and be able to learn the way I used to learn before the pandemic,” he said.

Moreover, he admitted that he did not have much expectations of the possibility of having limited face-to-face classes, but FEU made it possible in the end, so he said that was a good move for the university because after two years of conducting classes in an online setup, students have been yearning to finally be back on campus again.

Tamaraws reflect: pre and post-pandemic 

The Tamaraw community will surely benefit from the limited face-to-face sessions as it will allow them to experience laboratory courses and hone their skills more. However, there are also several drawbacks that students will notice and experience in the limited face-to-face classes because it is not like the regular classes where you can meet and hang out with your friends and classmates daily, and go wherever you want on campus.

Due to the limited number of face-to-face classes, stricter rules were enforced, and there were fewer students on campus, which can be considered normal because of the pandemic, and at the same time, an unusual thing for students who have gotten used to the previous regular face-to-face setting. From one building to another, students must tap their IDs for contract tracing everywhere on campus. 

After the firsthand experience with the limited face-to-face, Alcazaren stated that some of her expectations were not met due to the limited access to the laboratory section. She stated that more time and access to their laboratory courses, rather than just one day for each section, would have helped them develop their skills and master them more.

When she was considering enrolling in the limited face-to-face lessons, she noted a few things that came to mind: "The face-to-face classes [were] announced during the time where COVID-19 cases were still high and increasing. I considered getting a place to stay near the school but I was not permitted because it would cost too much for us. Luckily, when the F2F  classes were nearing, the cases slowly decreased and I felt better riding the UV [utility vehicle],” she explained.

After evaluating all of these factors, the necessary face-to-face classes for MedTech students were the sole issue that weighed heavier on her mind and prompted her to enroll in the limited face-to-face classes. "We were allowed to skip the F2F classes but 30% of our final grade would be gone. I also participated because I wanted to gain some experience, even just for a short period of time," she added.

Aside from Alcazaren, Franciso also expressed how motivated he was because of the limited face-to-face experience. “I felt more engaged in the lecture when the teacher is in front of me, speaking,” he stated.

Most of them said that the reason why they chose to participate in the limited face-to-face classes was that they wanted to see their friends and classmates again and learn in a face-to-face setting, they do not feel comfortable in their environment at home, they need more laboratory experience and practice.

Each student had different motivations for enrolling in the limited face-to-face seminars, but the majority of them agreed that they would learn more effectively in a face-to-face arrangement.

Two years have passed since the last face-to-face classes, surely so many things have changed in the world, and that also includes the things that once became constant parts of being a Tamaraw student.

Garcia, for one, stated that it was not her first time attending face-to-face sessions, but that things are different now under the new normal. "Limited F2F is different from the F2F  before because there are health protocols imposed today. You can’t socialize much with your classmates due to a social distancing policy. You can’t go out once you enter the school even if there are breaks,” she explained.

Apart from these things, Francisco saw that there were fewer students on campus, but what has changed is how FEU has offered places for students to sanitize, as well as scheduling appointments that will act as gate passes through TamsGo. According to him, there were also a “limited number of concessionaires in the canteen.”

It was not Alcazaren's first time attending face-to-face classes, but she noticed a lot of things that used to be there but are no longer there since the pandemic. 

Alcazaren pointed out that she noticed how there were more stalls open inside and outside the campus, whereas now, only a few stalls in some buildings are open. Adding to the things that she noticed, she said that now in the pandemic, teachers are able to point out the errors or mistakes of students in performing different laboratory tasks.

Ultimately, most of them expressed how much they missed their favorite tambayan spots around the campus, as well as the activities and events implemented in FEU back in the normal face-to-face days, such as being able to attend the One Concierto Piyu where students celebrated the founding anniversary of the university, trying out the different food stalls in every bazaar in the campus, watching band performances, and more. Aside from that, some of them even said that they missed their professors and WRP instructors.

The return of the Tamaraws to the beloved green and gold community has been one of the best things a student can experience after dwelling for a long time in front of the pixels, blue light, and isolation. At last, the empty rooms and halls will once again be filled with laughter, eagerness, and hope of the students, which truly marks that fortitude, excellence, and uprightness lingers and can be found in thy happy halls… again.

(Photo by Nickey Zacate/FEU Advocate)