Starting university is usually one of the most exciting times in a person’s life. Freshers week, which is usually made up of various outings and activities is a great way to get a feel for university, meet new people and make friends on the same course. However, with the Coronavirus still causing major disruption to normal life, the landscape of freshers and university has changed this year. I want to find out how it has changed and what impact this has on the freshers of 2020.
Most universities will continue online classes until 2021.
Most universities in the UK and Ireland have confirmed that online lectures will be continuing until 2021. Others have said that only a limited number of people will be able to attend lectures while practising social distancing.
Caitlin Jackson is a student due to begin her first year studying social work at Ulster University in September. Ulster University have stated that they will only do online classes until 2021. She tells me that she thinks this is both a “good and bad thing”. She tells me “it’s a good thing for people with children or who work, as they can fit their life around online classes without having to travel to university or worry about childcare”. Although she also tells me that she is worried about the “quality of teaching”. She believes it’s harder to “ask questions and get explanations” through online classes.
Universities are introducing online freshers week.
There is a lot of uncertainty around how freshers, or any other typical first year university experiences will take place. Most universities are delaying freshers week until after social distancing rules are relaxed. Others are introducing online fresher events, with music being live streamed and virtual group chats created for people on courses to get to know one another.
This clearly has an impact on how those starting out in university meet their peers. I asked Catilin how she felt about this. She tells me “a lot of people go to university to make friends and have more of a social life and not having freshers’ events really affects this and will definitely impact my ability to make friends”. Caitlin tells me that without freshers and lectures it will be “almost impossible to make friends and get to know people”. She explains that the most social times in university are “going out, having lunch or breaks where you can get to know others.” Caitlin thinks it will be hard to do this through online classes as “they tend to be all teaching with no interaction between students”.
Caitlin is not alone, there are many first-year students who have felt robbed of their initial experiences at university. Many feel the lack of social events and interactions have increased their worries about starting university and making friends.
University life “absolutely changed”
Caitlin tells me that she feels her university experience both socially and educationally will “absolutely be changed” by coronavirus. She tells me that “a big part of the university experience is meeting new people and going out together and one of the things I was most looking forward to.” She also feels that it is much easier to learn in a face to face environment where it is possible to discuss work with both teachers and peers”.
This is a time of year when freshers are usually getting excited about starting a whole new chapter of life. A time of meeting new people, going out to new places and experiencing their new campus. Hopefully the freshers of 2020 won’t have to wait too long to start this journey.
Check out our tips to international students socialising in the age of Coronavirus here: https://babylonradio.com/international-students-socialising-in-the-era-of-covid/
Stay up to date with all the latest Coronavirus news here: https://www.gov.ie/en/organisation/department-of-health/