Erin Oppel ’22 has taken advantage of every opportunity that Smith offered. As she looks back on her college experience, she says the support of her professors has prepared her for what comes next.
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On Campus, In Person: Students React to a New Year
For Bailey Butterworth ’24, being at Smith this fall “just feels like college!”
“It’s so good to see so many people here,” says Butterworth, an engineering major and Smith rugby player. “I walk into a full dining hall; I see people going off to their different classes. I just love the feeling and the energy of it!”
Butterworth is among 2,446 students on campus this fall for a semester that features in-person learning for the first time since March 2020. Numerous pandemic safety measures are in place, including masking and regular asymptomatic testing. Currently, all classes are being held in person—as are other learning opportunities, such as workshops, labs and performances.
The college has been able to welcome back a full complement of students, including 682 members of the first-year class, who arrived at Smith from 44 U.S states and 40 countries. Travel and other restrictions over the past 18 months have meant that some students are experiencing life on campus for the first time since enrolling at Smith. Others have returned for their final year of college, grateful to be surrounded by their classmates once more.
Here’s what Butterworth—and four fellow Smithies—had to say about the start of the new semester.
Jamila dePeiza Kern ’22
Hometown: Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts
“There’s a lot of excitement to get back to that familiar feeling of being on campus again, though it’s not quite back to normal. I’m a Bridge [preorientation program] leader for students of color this year. That feels like a full circle moment—for me to be there for them the way my Bridge leaders were there for me. It seems like for every experience or opportunity that was lost in the pandemic, there were new opportunities that were gained. I gained a lot of new skills; I was hired [last spring] by the Smith Botanic Garden to be a video editor for the horticulture classes, and I taught myself how to use new software and got to edit videos for classes. ...I feel like I’ve become more myself at Smith; I’ve really discovered the things that I feel deeply about and have met the people that uplift me. Now, in my senior year, I just want to experience everything to the fullest capacity. People keep asking me, ‘What’s next?’ I’m just focused on the present because in some ways, even though I’m a senior, I feel like I’ve just started.”
Handi Lu ’25
Hometown: Wuhan, China
“I was supposed to join the class of 2024 but because of the pandemic, I took a gap year. To get from my home in China to here, I had to go to another city in China and then fly to Japan and then to the U.S. In total, it was about 48 hours. It’s been really nice to be here and to be speaking English. I haven’t done that in almost a year and a half. The Smith community is so supportive and so diverse. I’ve talked to my house leaders and they are all amazing human beings. When I applied, I really wanted to study anthropology. I still do, but during my gap year I met people who studied sociology, so I’ll probably be taking courses in that, too. Understanding COVID is all about the natural sciences, but I think the social sciences should be valued as much. When I was applying to Smith, the [application essay] prompt was related to music. I’m a musician—I play the piano and the flute—and so I knew from that instant this was where I had to be!”
Toni Woods ’22
Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts
“I’m an education major with an Africana studies minor. I’m currently at my teaching placement for the year over at the Campus School. I’m super excited, and I’ll be getting the most teaching practice I’ve gotten since being at Smith. It’s a little strange going back to in-person—we’re all so used to remote. But I don’t have too many concerns. My mom is a teacher, and my grandma has a daycare. Education is the space the women in my family wiggle into naturally. I came to Smith knowing I wanted to do something in schools and work with young people. Right now, I’m focused on studying for my MTEL [teaching license test] and making sure I’m set for after-college life. I’m also looking forward to Mountain Day, Cromwell Day and all of the senior traditions. I’ve met so many influential people at Smith through [serving on] the Student Government Association and working for the Office for Student Engagement. My advisers and close friends have made being on campus an awesome experience. I’m hoping I can continue these relationships once this year is over.”
Morgan Fizer ’25
Hometown: Charleston, West Virginia
“My favorite part of the semester so far has been making so many friends. I’ve never had so many before. It seems everyone I come across is someone I click with. ... I’ve been surprised that I’ve liked living on the Quad so much. I thought I wanted something quiet and small, but I’m loving being able to hang out with everyone here. I feel like we’re being safe and considerate with each other. We only take our masks off when we’re in our rooms or while we’re eating. We all get tested together—it’s like a friend thing. ... I’m enrolled in a geology course about climate change, a biology course about human evolution and a yoga class. I’m thinking about environmental science and policy, but I’m taking in a bit of everything until I find what sticks. I would like to find out about beekeeping here. There was a nonprofit in Charleston that teaches low-income people to beekeep as a business and to sell their honey. I think there could be a big research opportunity here with beekeeping.”
Bailey Butterworth ’24
Hometown: Moorestown, New Jersey
“I’m so excited to be back in person. I am a little out of practice; you definitely have to be louder with a mask on and listen more intently. But there is something about presence. I didn’t realize that was something you can’t recreate over Zoom. I was here in the spring, and for the first couple of weeks it was like a ghost town. Now, there’s always people in my house living room having conversations. It feels much more social. I’m an engineering major and I have two labs and a studio class this semester—I’m really into the hands-on. I’ll also be part of the student senate; I’m on the finance committee. And I’m on the rugby team. We haven’t started contact yet. It’s interesting: rugby without contact. We’re just getting in shape and having two practices a day. I love the team, and I love my coaches. It’s the highlight of my day!”