Since March last year, students have been plunged into the deep end, forced to keep up the same standard of work in very abnormal circumstances. It’s been difficult for all the university students finishing their degrees, but arguably even harder for those starting and moving to the city for the first time.
Not only were these ‘freshers’ trying to navigate their way through a strange city, meet new people and succeed in their studies, they had to do it all in the middle of an international healthcare crisis, exacerbating any feelings they may have had of feeling isolated and out-of-place.
Irene Bisoni moved to Nottingham from Italy in September to start her degree, but did not expect living and studying during a pandemic to be so isolating.
“I had a lot of hopes about moving to another city and starting anew. The first lockdown was bearable for me but during this lockdown I’m really starting to feel isolated and I’m incredibly homesick. Not talking to people in real life makes things incredibly hard at times.”
Irene also felt like the presence of a lockdown has severely affected another key aspect of university life.
“In terms of my student experience, it is virtually non-existent. I haven’t been able to truly experience university as a fully functioning student. I also feel like university students are forgotten easily because people think they’re older, more mature, and more able to cope with the workload, but I don’t agree at all. A lot of emphasis has been put on students partying and breaching rules during the pandemic, and although I am completely against the breaching of rules, there have been circumstances where we have been wrongly demonised. I’m hoping that after the pandemic is over I’ll be able to see Nottingham in a different light.”
University of Nottingham student Lauren McGaun has also just started her second year studying Politics and American studies. She expressed her discontent with the clarity surrounding the ever-changing regulations and understands students’ frustrations.
“I think the constant changing of rules is just frustrating for students as there’s no clarity around the decisions. We were assured that we would be given a relatively easy return to campus from September and that blended learning would continue throughout this year, but that quickly changed. I, and I am sure many others, feel that it would’ve been better to just continue with home learning so that students didn’t waste thousands of pounds on accommodation that simply isn’t being used.”
Lauren also went on to say that she feels students have been forgotten by the government, aggravating students’ frustrations over the past several months.
She said: “There’s rarely ever a mention of university students in government briefings even though we’re a generation whose futures will be most affected by this crisis. It seems that all students are grouped into one perception of all acting irrepressibly even though, for the most part, this isn’t true. The student experience has been hugely different this year but I do commend the university for taking the steps they did for keeping the campus safe and covid-secure.
Lauren added: “It has been very difficult to adjust as most of what was meant to be some of my best years at university have been spent working at home and struggling to focus which is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.”
Throughout this pandemic, the lives of students at university have been turned into a chaotic string of events, despite the fact that university should be some of the best years of their life. Students have been at the forefront of this pandemic, often for rule-breaking, but here’s hoping when we eventually return to normal, the scapegoating of students will return to normality too.