As the Fall semester nears the one-third mark, one group of students recently reflected on getting out from behind computer screens and experiencing campus life as Fullerton College emerges from the pandemic — even as COVID-19 remains a worry in the background.

“I was a little bit scared at first. I won’t lie,” said sophomore Catherine Cruz, a social justice major. Her excitement about her first semester in person was tempered with nervousness about COVID once again forcing a disruption of classes. “Now that I’ve gotten comfortable, I really am having a lot of fun.”

Cruz has found a benefit to a college still recovering from the pandemic and declining enrollment: many classes have smaller sizes, giving students more opportunities to get individual help from professors. “My gender studies class only has 18 students in it, which is definitely a good thing,” she said.

Freshman Dani Pardo, Sophomore Catherine Cruz, and Sophomore Rain Galaz hang out, enjoying the in-person interaction this semester.

Freshman Dani Pardo, sophomore Catherine Cruz, and sophomore Rain Galaz hang out at Fullerton College, enjoying the in-person interaction this semester. Photo credit: Jake Rhodes

Nearly two-thirds of FC students are back on campus to some degree, with 62% enrolled in at least one in-person course.

Students are navigating a changing pandemic environment at the college. Earlier in the summer, the district indoor mask requirement was lifted and student check-in procedures before going to class or accessing in-person services were removed as well. A mandate remains for students and staff who come on campus to be fully vaccinated or have an approved exemption.

Sophomore Rain Galaz, whose first time on campus was last semester, is enjoying the semester so far. “Things have been going pretty good for me,” Galaz said with a smile. “I have four classes, two are small and two are average-sized. It feels like a normal semester.”

COVID does continue to be a concern, with the latest report from the college concluding that from Aug. 26 through Sept. 10, 36 on-campus students and 10 on-campus employees tested positive for the virus.

Robust access to testing for COVID-19 may be helping students such as Cruz and Galaz to have peace of mind. Fullerton has two free testing sites on campus for faculty, staff, and students.

Walk-in tests are available for non-symptomatic individuals in the 1000 Building (room 1018). Those who have been exposed to the virus can do drive-thru testing offered in the small loading parking lot east of the 200 Building. Full details and hours are on the college’s testing page.

Freshman Dani Pardo is among the many young adults who spent a large portion of their high school experience on online platforms like Zoom. Now, she and her peers are receiving a higher education by learning face-to-face.

Pardo likes the way things have been going in her first month as a college student. “College has been easier than expected so far. Having 14 people in my English 104 class was different, but in a good way,” the early childhood education major said. “I really enjoy the flexibility college has to offer, especially being here in person.”

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