This year is like no other with the Covid-19 pandemic affecting everyone’s lives. But what is it like as a first-year university student moving across the country? Mental reached out to Luke Knight, a first-year Modern Languages and Cultures student at Leeds University.
Moving in day – 18th September.
Today, it was announced that there will be increasing restrictions in Leeds. I thought that they would ease up with time, however, maybe it is necessary to be stricter now so we can go home for Christmas. We are no longer allowed to mix with other households in gardens or inside venues and like the rest of the country, the pubs shut at 10pm. I tend to my reading and homework in the early evenings (and won’t be able to do if after going to the pub!) so will need to lay off going to the ‘Spoons for a while..
It feels weird that from moving-in day I am now considered to be in a household of 5 strangers. Who all have different friendship groups and mix within different circles, and I don’t need to socially distance from them, but I now need to distance from the family I’ve been living with who only interact with the household.
Saturday – 19th September.
We spent my first Saturday night inside the flat. In the area all the pubs are booked up, requiring you to book night-outs days in advance, making it impossible just to turn up at a place. Even if you did, it would be a mistake with the inability to correctly social distance in these queues.
Going out has to be a thoroughly planned out event; you have to have your mask, a phone which supports the NHS track & trace app and everyone’s contact details for the system. It doesn’t add up to how I imagined university life would be in my head. Imagining there would be more spontaneous nights out and mixing with more people outside of my six-person flat.
Sunday night – 20th September.
All six members of my flat are moved in now, which means we can’t socialise with anyone outside our household as a group, even when socially distanced. The university has banned mixing with other flats indoors, and have issued fines with the potential of further disciplinary action for anybody disobeying these rules. I am anxious about only making friends with the people in my flat and not being able to expand my social circle. I can’t meet up with people on my course unless we sit 2 metres apart. With more than 70 in my lecture group, the ability to distance seems really unrealistic. I’m hoping the rules ease up soon though, so we can meet more people.
Wednesday – 23rd September.
I’ve had introductory lectures this week, all of which were online. The university expects some classes in the future to be on campus in small groups. It’s been difficult to bond with classmates and lectures over a busy Zoom call, but I’m sure we’ll meet eventually. There is confusion with the hybrid learning – what do you do if you have classes online and on-campus directly after each other. Currently, there are no inside study spaces available due to the difficulties with social distancing. Which may mean we start to do lectures in coffee shops, or wherever we can find a table. I appreciate the difficulty to open places on campus, but paying a full tuition for a course I might end up doing in a Costa Coffee seems a bit excessive.
Friday – 25th September (a week since I moved in)
Today, it was announced that there will be increasing restrictions in Leeds. I thought that they would ease up with time, however maybe it is necessary to be stricter now so we can go home for Christmas. We are no longer allowed to mix with other households in gardens or inside venues and like the rest of the country the pubs shut at 10pm. I tend to my reading and homework in the early evenings (and won’t be able to do if after going to the pub!) so will need to lay off going to the ‘Spoons for a while.
They’ve moved all my lessons online so I still won’t be able to meet my classmates for the foreseeable future. I’m worried I’m not getting out enough to exercise because without the walk to town or campus, there’s a low chance I’ll be active most days. I wish there was a consistent sense of structure. I struggle without knowing exactly what will happen, and in this situation, everything changes on an hourly basis.
There are rumours of a potential strict lockdown for October half-term. I’ve also heard rumours that we may need to isolate for two weeks before going home at Christmas. For the foreseeable future, it’s not looking good, but I feel lucky. I’m lucky to get along with my flatmates, and a good family and friend support system to keep my stocked up on food if required and to support me.
Saturday – 26th September
I started seeing TikTok and Instagram reels about my university. My halls of residence were in the Daily Mirror saying students had no access to food or cleaning services. Some people in my lessons have tested positive for Covid-19. I’m starting to feel let down by the people who are supposed to protect me. The government claim to want the best for students, but they put us in environments where you can’t avoid the virus and then blame us for the spread. I’m getting fed up of feeling like a test, to ‘see what happens’.
I need more stability. It started to hit closer to home today and made me wonder how much this is worth. All my lessons are online, so I could go home where it’s safer and more comfortable. I would still need to pay the £9,000 for a course to Zoom with teachers. I could join societies to make friends, but you have to pay to join when it is still Zoom activities.
How can I make friends with no household mixing? With the struggle to bond with people online, especially with broken webcams. Everything seems to lead back to me asking myself – is it even worth it?