First-year students outline their experience at university so far, sharing the weird and wonderful aspects of lockdown life
Back in October, Life&Style writers gave their advice to freshers, anticipating how difficult it could be to start university during a pandemic. Now, we’ve asked first-year students themselves to share their own voices. Having survived their first semester, here they tell us about the highs and lows of lockdown life, and how they’ve managed to stay connected with others, work hard, and have fun!
I was the last to move into my flat, and despite the restrictions in Birmingham becoming stricter every day, I was still hopeful that I would live through at least some of ‘the uni experience.’ I quickly became friends with all my flatmates, although after a couple of weeks we started feeling lonely. The problem was that even though we got along we still wanted to meet new people and it was hard to make close friends over zoom. Most of our ‘nights out’ were spent at Joe’s, but soon after we moved to Birmingham, the 10pm curfew set in and we ended up spending most of our nights watching movies and playing drinking games in our kitchen.
When online classes first started, the whole system was confusing. Each day course group chats would be filled with questions as to which seminars we should go to and which lectures we should complete before each week. The lack of a functioning timetable didn’t help, but after a month or so we seemed to get the hang of it and I came to enjoy the pre-recorded lectures and can’t imagine attending all my lectures and seminars in person.
Starting University was both exciting and terrifying for me. Moving hours away from home in a completely new place was scary, especially knowing that this university experience would be very different because of the pandemic. However, I still managed to make the most of my time in Birmingham this semester. Luckily, I had found lots of people from my course via Facebook, so I had made a few friends before September. This definitely made it easier for me to make welcome week plans! On my first week I managed to go for lots of walks to explore the campus, had a picnic by the lake, went to spoons in central, went to the kitty cafe and did shopping in the bullring and went out for food! I definitely made the most of that week. I have also found studying online not as bad as I first anticipated. I have got used to watching lectures and doing seminars on zoom, and I find it really easy to manage my time well with lectures and prep work being uploaded on canvas well in advance to the seminar.
All the staff have been really informative and helpful as well, and the fact I am studying something I love makes it even better! I also joined a couple societies, such as Writer’s Bloc, in which I have had loads of writing opportunities, and I have joined Redbrick – I currently have 3 articles published online which is exciting! Even though I have been studying from home since the end of October because of the lockdown, I have managed to make lots of lovely new friends in person and online, and explore lots of Birmingham. I look forward to returning in January and making more out of my university experience.
Wake up. Put on a presentable top. Draw the curtains. Make the long journey across the wilderness of carpet to your desk. Open your laptop. You’ve arrived at your first class of the day. This is the way things are now, but if you are a fresher, this is the way things have always been. The first year students who arrived in sunny September have certainly had a unique start to uni life. Some have never met their coursemates, others have barely set foot on campus. There are definitely downsides to this new way of being; socialising is one of the most important aspects of a fresher’s first term, but has anyone ever made a friend over zoom? Your parents might say ‘It’s easy! I met so-and-so when we ended up sitting next to each other at our first lecture’, but my best efforts to look friendly from behind a face mask come across as slightly creepy intense staring, especially since everyone has to sit two metres apart.
Of course, all the restrictions are in place for good reason, and it’s best to learn to adapt. Uni can still be an opportunity to try new things and meet new people. My personal lockdown high/low point came as I lay on my dusty bedroom floor trying and failing to do the worm in front of a horrified zoom dance class as the very sympathetic teacher tried her best to offer advice through the webcam. My advice is keep going, keep putting yourself out there; no matter the situation, there are always fresh new ways to get carpet-burn and humiliate yourself (and possibly have some fun along the way).
My first term at UoB began with a rocky start. In an experience characteristic of being a fresher in 2020, I was required to isolate three times in just my first month. As I saw friends from home having homecooked meals and my family continuing to see each other, I quickly questioned whether uni was for me. However, after Covid ran its course through the Vale, and the dreaded isolations stopped, I found myself in ways I couldn’t have imagined. My flatmates soon became like siblings, our nightly movie marathons and silly shenanigans kept us all going. My coursemates became my best friends despite a lack of physical-contact: dropping off care-packages, popping over for socially distanced walks in the freezing evenings and waving at windows during the lockdown.
Before long, I was referring to my flat as ‘home,’ the distinctions between ‘home-friends’ and ‘uni-friends’ stopped and homesickness diminished. My first term at UoB may not have been filled with drunken nights out, or even just in-person lectures, but it was filled with supportive people and the best friends. I still pinch myself every time I walk onto campus and realise I am here, I did it and I am happy.
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