It’s a warm Monday night in East Lansing, road lights brighten Grand River Avenue as music livens it. The streets are bustling with lines and lines of Spartans, excited for their last summer hoorah. It’s animal science sophomore Allison Merhar’s eighth night out in a row — a major increase from her two nights a week pattern prior to the pandemic.
Like many young adults, Merhar is thrilled to be able to have a night out again. The COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to everyday life, but this summer has brought a return to normalcy.
“Honestly, campus is more bumping,” she said. “There is less restrictions, even though I feel like those will probably get put back in place. But for now, as you can see, there is music. Everybody is happy.”
Lines to Rick’s American Cafe and Harper’s Restaurant and Brew Pub extended all the way down to the Target parking garage and HopCat, respectively, longer than in previous months. This semester is not only the class of 2025’s first time being on campus but the class of 2024’s as well. After an abrupt end of their high school years, they were unable to complete their first year of college in person.
“I think we were all just so cooped up for so long; we just needed to just get out,” marketing and communications sophomore Cami Anderson said. “Last year, I really didn’t get to go out that much and meet a bunch of people, so now the true experience is finally coming.”
After not really being able to meet people due to the pandemic, Merhar said students are taking advantage of the opportunity and going out more.
“It’s fun to meet people,” Merhar said.
Computer science junior Jacob Zirkle said having the ability to go out again has allowed for some self-revelations.
“I have learned that I’m more of a people person than anything, and without people, I don’t thrive as well,” he said.
Not everybody, however, is as prepared to return to a pre-pandemic world. Some remain concerned over their health and safety, especially as the Delta variant proves to be more destructive.
Kinesiology sophomore Claire Duris says she used to go out almost every night but now only does so about two times a week.
“I’m just not comfortable in big groups anymore,” she said. “I’m more aware of who’s around me, and I’m more uncomfortable with people pressed up against me.”
Vaccinations have eased many minds, especially Zirkle’s.
“I think some people are more scared (to go out), but the people who are more inclined to go out are now going out more,” Zirkle said. “I got vaccinated. At that point, I was just like ‘I’m good now.'"
The world post-pandemic is vastly unique to the world pre-pandemic, and people are seeing things through a different lens. Art education freshman Kim Carmichael weighed in on the reasoning, citing the “YOLO” mentality as a motivating factor.
Carmichael said people now understand the value of being active and going out because they couldn't for a certain time. They realize they took these things for granted.
East Lansing is booming, with eateries opening back up to full capacity, bands performing on street corners, and Spartans enthusiastic to return to their normal affairs. There is a new, positive vibe in the air.
“I can definitely feel that something is different around here,” Anderson said. “I feel like everyone is kind of just ready to get out, mingle, just do our thing.”
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