'I have to move with it and adapt': UC Merced students start fall semester virtually

Class is back in session for UC Merced students, but learning looks very different.
MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Class is back in session for UC Merced students, but learning looks very different.

Student Body President Elizabeth Meza Torres says the switch to virtual learning was challenging.

"I have a picture of my family literally in front of my desk, and it's just a constant reminder," said Torres. "My parents are farmworkers. They work in the field, 105-degree weather, so if they can go out every day and work, I can get my academics together."

She's one of roughly 9,000 students starting the school year online with UC Merced.

"I had to get myself together and tell myself, yes, we're in a pandemic, but the world is still moving, and I have to move with it and adapt with it," said Torres.

Less than 500 students are living on the campus, and even fewer are reporting for in-person lab courses. All are required to complete daily symptom checklists.

The university hopes to open more classes for in-person learning later in the semester.

"We anticipate as we look at public health guidelines, there will be or may be an opportunity for them to be in person, such as our studio classes like dance, vocal, and arts courses," explained Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Charles Nies.

University traditions like the bridge crossing will be done virtually. They've also created virtual "Bobcat Dens" to connect students with their peers giving students like Torres the tools they need to continue on their education journey.

"It's just a constant reminder that as a college student, I might be struggling but my parents got me where I am this is there dream for me to accomplish my dreams," said Torres.
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