Student Life, But Not As We Know It

Sophia Smith student life in lockdown
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SOPHIA SMITH IS CURRENTLY IN HER SECOND YEAR AT LIVERPOOL UNIVERSITY STUDYING JOURNALISM, HERE SHE SHARES AN INSIGHT INTO HOW A STUDENT’S LIFE HAS CHANGED IN LOCKDOWN.

Swapping my window view of rolling hills and the northern sunrises of Colne, for the sight of red brick tower blocks didn’t sound too tempting. Neither did replacing the birds singing for the sounds of continuous traffic or the drunk rackets outside your window at 4am. But I’d be lying if I told you that moving to university in a city unknown to me over a year ago wasn’t one of the best things to happen to me. When I was accepted to study Journalism in the city of Liverpool the feeling was almost surreal. You start to think things like how am I going to look after myself alone in a city when I can’t even go a day without ringing my parents to say ‘Help! I can’t find my other sock’ or ‘How long should I microwave this for?’ I threw myself in the deep end and survived off pasta and cheese. Once again, I’ve returned to live off pasta, maybe even make a ‘Lasagne Alla Bolognese’ to express my growth into adulthood with a side order of social distancing.

This year, we are adjusting to a new normal. Since the beginning of 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic has altered every single person’s life in diverse ways. The student life that was once getting blind drunk until five in the morning then rolling out of bed into a lecture still tipsy four hours later is no more. Even being able to pop over to the next flat to say hello to your new neighbours is not allowed. Our student accommodation has a zero-visitor policy, when I moved in my parents had to stand outside of the building whilst I dragged everything alone up and down from the fifth floor. I saw two students with face coverings in the building of what usually be a hive of activity. There was a back door that residents had been using to sneak friends and family in the first few weeks however security caught on and the door cannot even be used anymore.

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Sophia top left with her student ‘bubble’

If one resident in our student halls is tested positive, the whole flat must isolate for two weeks and there are several cases here. There are windows splattered with ‘HELP US’ and ‘SEND BEER’ written in neon sticky notes. I even looked out of my window the other night to see eight police cars that had turned up to stop flat parties in the opposite student accommodation. I feel sorry for the first-year students, I was lucky enough to be able to have my freshers’ experience last year, of getting legless seven days in a row. Ending every night out by ordering garlic mayo chips and the occasional chicken kebab if I had enough student loan to splash that week, but we are in bed by 10pm, I feel like my grandparents! I know that it is to ensure safety and protect everybody, and there’s nothing more that I want for this pandemic to be over, but I know fresher’s week is the first step all students have to
embark on for their university journey.

Learning in lockdown is a win-lose situation, I can sit at my laptop having just woke up three minutes before the zoom call lecture in my pyjamas with a cup of tea and nobody would know. However, if you’re like me and need to be taught physically in a learning environment to be motivated it can be hard as it goes through one ear and out the other. All courses have shifted online apart from lab time and workshops, this affected a lot of students enrolled in practical based subjects. There is so much practical work in Journalism, last year we spent half of our time in the city centre conducting Vox pops and interviews. Now we are allowed in university one day a week this term to learn how to use media equipment.

Last year I had a taste of the online learning when we were sent home due to lockdown in March and had to do exams purely from learning material emailed. We should not be have to pay the fee of £9,250 a year for this learning. The tutors have been wonderful, I can only imagine how much stress they have been under but continue to try to support us the best they can, but it will never be equivalent to face to face teaching. One size does not fit all! I find it unjustified that we must pay for information that we can obtain ourselves through Google. We need resources, libraries, and equipment.

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The thought of having a Christmas without my family makes me teary-eyed as the festive holiday is one of my spirit lifting periods. I was sitting with my best friend and flatmate, Amelia, driving to Liverpool as we heard on the radio about the possible banning of students returning home for Christmas. We felt like turning the car straight back home. The thought of waking up in student halls on Christmas morning with no tree, or the smell of the turkey dinner preparations, just wouldn’t be Christmas. At 20, my dad still wakes me up to open the presents at half seven in the morning, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Even as a student who isn’t under a flat lockdown, I regularly hear the cry of ‘I’m bored!’ It’s such an easy position to fall into not getting out of bed because there’s ‘nothing to do’ and from that mindset, mental health declines into a downward spiral. There’s so much weight on social media to ‘change your life’ and be creative, when in fact, just getting out of bed and brushing your teeth could be today’s greatest achievement. You don’t have to have learnt a new language, started a new sport, or learn how to make a Gordon Ramsay style meal. We should use this time to learn what’s best for us.

“MY ANXIETY CONSTANTLY TELLS ME I HAVE THE VIRUS, WHETHER I HAVE A LITTLE COLD OR A HOT FLUSH”

I urge so many students to try and keep in a routine. I’ve spent the last five years struggling with anxiety on a day to day basis and I learnt a keyway to help myself is a regime. Even if I don’t have university on a certain day, I force myself to get out of bed in the morning and make a brew and have a bowl of Shreddies.

Being in university every day last year with new faces, new places helped to push me to my limits and helped challenge my anxiety as I threw myself into situations I couldn’t even dream of doing years ago without having a panic attack or throwing up. It helps you to find yourself without the dependence of family, you become your own person. It’s not just the feeling of being on campus that I miss, it’s the people I could see every day. I know of so many people that have struggled with their mental health during the
pandemic. I preach self-care and a routine, but it’s easier said than done. I’ve spent the last seven months spending every day with my partner, walking in the countryside, and constantly occupied by company. I am now unable to see my family and partner for weeks at a time because of how scared I am to possibly pass any risk of the Coronavirus. My anxiety constantly tells me I have the virus, whether I have a little cold or a hot flush. I’m extremely lucky that I live with six friends who are all in the same boat (or should I say bubble?) so I could reach out to any one of them if I felt like I needed support but it’s not the same as a cuddle from loved ones. I’m fortunate, but many live alone, so I urge everyone to check in with their friends. We are lucky live in an era of the internet; a text or phone call could make someone smile in what feels like a never-ending epidemic.

Every single morning in our university lectures we’d say, ‘I’m never doing last night again!’, but to be boogieing to Abba once more in a nightclub with my friends until the early hours of the morning is something I can only dream of for now. There were so many things that we once took for granted, like catching the train home with a suitcase full of dirty clothes washing, sitting in a 24-hour library rushing last minute essays, visiting your nan who feeds you enough biscuits to last you a lifetime or just simply going for
a beer at your local Student Union bar. Student life is a stark contrast to what it was this time last year, but I must keep reminding myself and everyone that these changes are not forever, and each day we keep ourselves and others safe the closer we are to the end of these limitations.

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