Trudging Back to Campus: Return to the Face-to-Face Setup

By Dietrich Mari Liwanag

Through the lens of a student. Season 38 Episode 4 explores the narratives of students and faculty as they go back to face-to-face classes. This drama-documentary captures the experiences and concerns that students face. (Screenshot from Dito sa Laguna).

As students go back to face-to-face classes, they go through different experiences that others might not be so aware of. In Dito Sa Laguna’s (DSL)  Season 38 Episode 4,  a team of BS in Development Communication students ventured into the life of students going back to face-to-face classes.

DSL is a development-oriented community television program that features all things Laguna. They produce different programs that showcase the accomplishments, aspirations, and other information from and about Laguna communities. They cover a wide range of topics such as the Anilag Festival, local social enterprises, and now, the return to the face-to-face learning mode at different schools and universities here in Laguna.

Interviews were conducted at three different universities in Laguna. These are Colegio de Los Baños (CDLB), Laguna State Polytechnic University –  Los Baños (LSPU-LB), and the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).

The return to face-to-face does not really start with the students’ first day at their campuses, but in the months before it. As they learned that they were about to return to the physical setup, students were filled with mixed emotions. They have been anticipating this for quite a while and now they were feeling both anxious and excited. Students were required to prepare a variety of documents, such as answering surveys or showing their proof of vaccinations. 

They also had to go prepare their materials for school as they would now need them more than they did during the online setup. Depending on where they resided as well, students might have to move to Laguna to be closer to their schools.

Student leaders and students were interviewed regarding their thoughts on the transition to face-to-face classes. There were concerns regarding the financial situation of the students. As numerous students have stated, there were a lot of expenses now that there are physical classes. 

Jomarie Suamen, the  president of the Supreme Student Council of LSPU-LB, said, “..kasi karamihan ng parents ng ating mga students ay nawalan ng trabaho.” One student even shared that back when there were only online classes they would be eating three full meals a day, whilst now they sometimes eat around one meal only.

The  Vice Chairperson of the University Student Council of UPLB, Mark Gio Olivar, expressed their discontent with the lack of academic leniency during this transition period of going back to face-to-face learning. 

They also stated that they believe there are insufficient basic student services. As an example, UPLB college dormitories are only able to house roughly 10% of the student population. At the start of the semester, there was a rush to find affordable housing as there was an influx of students to the university.

Students expressed their displeasure on various platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, as they were faced with great difficulty in finding suitable accommodations. The lack of proper infrastructure is also evident as a professor also expressed their worry over health protocol in their faculty offices.

In CDLB, they noted a different pressing issue which is the lack of socialization. Professors noticed that students, during the pandemic especially, were quite shy and reserved during their online classes. They were worried that this would bleed into their physical classes. They were also concerned about learning modalities.

The  Public Relations Officer of the CDLB Supreme Student Council, John Paul P. Aquino, echoed the thoughts of their students, who were worried about the adjustment period wherein blended learning would be used. 

He then continued to express how it can be difficult for students to transition back to this setup. There were also students interviewed that expressed how going to their face-to-face classes was troublesome. Whereas before they would simply need to go on their devices to attend classes. Now, they would need to wake up early and commute to their respective colleges.

However, it would not be right to say that these problems were all left unattended. These schools have a variety of programs with which they aim to assist their students with their struggles.

CDLB addressed their worry over developing the social skills of their students through events such as the having of booths. These booths were designed to encourage social interaction. Students even shared their thoughts as to how, over time, they became more confident and less anxious due to the face-to-face setup.

The schools also offered a multitude of scholarships to students. These scholarships ranged from those from CHED, private institutions, etc.

The Student Learning Assistance System (SLAS) of UPLB is one of the avenues to which financial assistance can be provided to the students. It can be quite helpful for students to visit the offices of their college or local government offices to inquire about these support systems.

It is also important that these institutions provide mental wellness programs as well. Art programs and the like, such as those offered by UPLB, can be helpful in stress relief for students and faculty alike. The guidance offices of schools also offer aid to students, so these are just some of the outlets that students can access.

The television program aimed to showcase the different struggles that people had to face in the shift back to face-to-face learning. They also highlighted possible solutions such as scholarships and grants, while also sharing tips and tricks for students to follow.

The episode also features interviews from different students, sharing their insights and perspectives on the whole situation. 

One of the interviews shared, “Honestly, medyo ang hirap ng transition from online to face-to-face..” Indeed, students have numerous daily challenges from where to study to how to manage their workload.

The episode uncovered a multitude of systemic issues and shared experiences that college students are faced with. They explored different perspectives to better understand the hearts of the constituents of the different colleges and universities. This production offered an avenue for students and teachers to express their thoughts to a wider audience. It managed to illuminate the hardships and triumphs that college students have dealt with and are dealing with on a day-to-day basis. Their program served as a window of authenticity to everyday student life.