Life in lockdown has not been easy on anyone but for students, the past two academic years have become progressively more difficult and I have experienced this first hand. As a third-year English literature student, I can’t help but feel that COVID-19 has stolen some of the supposed ‘best years’ of my life.
University went from meeting with friends and attending lectures to being locked away to the confines of my room staring at a screen for hours on end; not to mention my growing anxiety about the job market once I graduate. I’m not the only student who feels let down by various institutions, so I interviewed four fellow students for an in-depth insight into the impact of the pandemic on students and their mental health.
Kat Hughes, 27, college student currently applying for university.
Kat is currently studying an access course into health professions at Tresham College and at age 27 she is considered a mature student. Kat explained that her learning has been heavily disrupted by the pandemic, she said: “Everything was cut down at college, we were only in a day and a half before Covid struck and as a result the class was split in two and we were forced to socially distance at two metres apart, so it was really difficult to get to know people compared to normal circumstances,”.
Kat has endured feelings of anxiety along with the rest of her class due to the fact that the current times we are living in have been so unpredictable, Kat commented “It felt like we were all just winging it!”. Thankfully when December rolled around, Kat and her class were able to apply to university through UCAS although it did take longer than usual to receive offers back as a result of admin staff being on furlough at the hands of the ongoing pandemic.
Kat expressed how she had feelings of ”serious doubt” about whether or not she’d actually bag any offers or interviews because of the amount of time that passed between her applying and the time she heard back, she told me “It really played havoc with my confidence which resulted in me thinking others may be more qualified than myself”.
Going into the new year Kat was faced with further hurdles, with lessons moving completely online everything seemed even less personal than before, Kat continued to say “I really feel that if I didn’t have the support of my friends and family, then I simply wouldn’t be in the position I am today where I have received three conditional offers“.
Kat continued by saying her confidence has returned and her self-doubt has vanished but this is down to herself and her own doing, not the education system that should’ve been there for her. Finally, Kat concluded the interview by saying “There is an overwhelming lack of support for students“ especially potential students like herself who are applying to study healthcare, she feels as if they should be encouraged and supported rather than the sub-par encouragement and assistance that has been provided during these unprecedented times.
Wishing Kat the best of luck in her future studies, I’m so glad that she has three conditional offers and with her determination, any university will be lucky to have her as a student.
Emilia De-Santis, 20, third-year business management student currently on a placement at HPE.
Emilia has been a close friend of mine since starting university at De Montfort in 2018. She is probably the person I know who’s life has been most significantly impacted by Covid. Emilia told me that as the first lockdown was approaching, she decided to flee her university accommodation and go home to Nottingham despite the fact she would have to live with her aunt as her Dad was shielding due to a heart condition, Emilia said she found this “very distressing” because she is a very family orientated person and is extremely close with both her parents, so has missed them terribly.
In addition to this, she has only been able to see her sister twice this year as she lives in Brighton. As Emilia lost regular social contact with those who mean the most to her and lessons moved online she found herself to feel “isolated and bored”, she added that during the first lockdown she felt somewhat lucky to be a key worker at Morrisons as this helped her to stay active and ”on the right path“ but unfortunately when Emilia began her placement she was forced to work from home despite having plans to move to Reading to be close to the office.
Emilia said, “I was really excited about this as it was a great opportunity to gain employability skills and make new friends“ yet these dreams were replaced by sitting at a desk and staring at a screen all day alone. The most tragic aspect of Emilia’s lockdown story has to be that her Nonna passed away recently and much to Emilia‘s despair as because of lockdown restrictions she has had very few opportunities to visit her Nonna over the past year.
Despite all these challenges Emilia has coped by listening to music, walking and cooking in her spare time. Emilia has even made an Instagram dedicated to her passion for cooking and healthy living, the account is called @justlikemammausedtomake, I highly encourage you to follow this account but I must warn you! You will develop serious food envy and may even become angry.
Emilia has found this time useful for connecting with her thoughts and “realising the bigger picture” thanks to having fewer distractions, she is even considering starting her own podcast discussing a variety of topics. Emilia went on to tell me how she most misses spending time with her friends and cannot for June when hopefully restrictions will be lifted. Emilia‘s advice for others who are going through a similar situation in lockdown is “Understand life has different chapters and the next chapter will be full of new experiences, so stay hopeful“.
Emilia’s said, “I will be returning to university to finish my degree next year, where I will be living with a group of friends. I hope by this time everyone is safe and the world will be somewhat back to normality”.
I wish Emilia all the luck in the world as she completes her degree and commend her for her strength throughout a difficult time. Myself and Emilia are currently taking part in a step challenge for the British Heart Foundation in support of her Dad, if you would like to donate, here is the link: https://mystepchallenge.blackbaud-sites.com/fundraising/emilia-and-taras-step-challenge
Andy Roberts, 27, creative writing student.
Andy is a mature student at De Montfort University, he is currently studying creative writing and has had a disappointing experience this year because of the lockdown. Andy filled me in on how all the societies he is a member of have either moved online or simply aren’t going ahead at all, he continued by saying “Even those which have moved online are only happening sporadically or becoming increasingly dormant.
This is hard for me because university societies gave me the social life I never had before as I, unfortunately, don’t socialise much with people on my course. I’d hoped to do so in my second year but the pandemic dashed my chances”.
Andy‘s classes have all been moved online and prior to this he only has one on-campus workshop. Being a third-year student he has a very sparse timetable and only finds himself going out at least once a week for an essential shop. Andy decided that he would stay at his university accommodation over Christmas as he was anticipating we would be going into another national lockdown, in the first lockdown Andy found himself stuck at home for six months and found he doesn’t have the same level of independence at home as he does at university, adding “So I didn’t want to go through all that again“.
With all restrictions (god willing) being lifted in June Andy realises that he may miss out on a chance to celebrate finishing university in the way he had imagined. After graduation, Andy hoped to meet virtually with peers on Discord to play Jackbox games as a form of celebration, although he confessed “I’m not confident I’ll have any takers”. Andy plans to stay in Leicester so is currently looking for somewhere to live along with job searching.
I hope Andy gets to celebrate the completion of his degree in some way and I’m sure we are all wishing him luck in his house and job hunting.
Concluding, I’d like to thank everyone who took part in this article for opening up to me. It’s important that we speak up on our experiences as young people and students to help change the narrative that is projected against us, especially in times like this where we have been blamed for rises in cases by an utterly incompetent government, who wrongfully lured us back to education promising things would be back to normal when in reality the economy was reliant on our rent and tuition fees. Student welfare has been sacrificed for the sake of the economy.