CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – Even though the pandemic affected campus life in a lot of ways, it didn’t change forever. The excitement, stress and traffic of Move-In Week is back. U of I students are returning for the fall semester.

Some students are traveling from as far as California, but they’re all feeling the same nerves. Soon, thousands will move away from home for the first time, and university officials are hoping to ease that transition.

Freshman Rijul Roy said he feels excited.

“Excited because it’s a new thing,” Roy said. “Nervous because also being away from home [in a] new state.”

Move-In Day stress is normal for college students. But growing up during a pandemic isn’t.

“High school felt a lot shorter just because of COVID sophomore and junior year,” said freshman Brady Banker. “I’m looking forward to these next four years to be back to normal.”

What should have been a “normal” high school experience was cut in half for these incoming freshmen. Now, the class of 2026 is hoping to make up for lost time.

“This year, I want to put myself out there even if the pandemic held me back from socializing or talking to people,” said freshman Ife Adeyinka.

COVID-19 restrictions on campus are looser now. For example, U of I used to limit the number of guests who could help out during move-in week.

“This year, that is not the case,” said University Housing Associate Director of Communications & Marketing Chris Axtman-Barker. We’re really happy that everyone can help out in helping students move in to their rooms.”

On-campus housing isn’t back to full capacity yet, but it’s getting close.

“And one of the things we’re really proud of is we had the lowest positivity rate on campus when it came to COVID-19, so University Housing was a very safe place to live, and that remains true,” Axtman-Barker said.

With 2020 in the rearview mirror, students and on-campus officials are all looking ahead with cautious optimism.

“I feel like everyone is definitely excited for the school year, and I am too,” Adeyinka said. “I hope that we’re able to relate to each other well.”

The university has not released enrollment numbers for this year yet. Last year, they enrolled a record-breaking number of first year students – about 8,300 of them.