Life as a First Year Student During COVID-19 | Top Universities

Life as a First Year Student During COVID-19

By Chloe Lane

Updated August 24, 2022 Updated August 24, 2022

Starting university is rarely easy for students. Meeting new friends, getting to grips with your course and moving away from home for the first time are all challenges. But what is it like to start university and have to deal with these things while also trying to remain safe from coronavirus?

Kavi Sharma, a first year Global Sustainable Development (GSD) student at the University of Warwick is currently living in one of the university’s largest halls of accommodation. Kavi said his halls has had one of the most coronavirus cases in the university. He told us about his experiences so far.

Isolating with flatmates

Isolating with flatmates

When we spoke to Kavi, he was in day one of his 14-day self-isolation period as someone in his flat had tested positive for COVID-19.

He said: “It’s a strange but also exciting experience to be self-isolating with people I only met a week ago. I’m just thankful that I get along well with my flat!”

Many international students are also having to self-isolate this semester. According to the latest QS coronavirus survey, 44 percent of the 312 international students questioned had been asked to quarantine upon arrival to the country where they’ll be studying.

Measures put in place by the university

Measures put in place by the university

Most universities are putting measures in place to protect students and staff against the threat of coronavirus. The same QS survey revealed that over half (52 percent) of the students questioned had been given a limit on the number of visitors at their place of residence.

Kavi said that at the University of Warwick, students “aren’t allowed in anyone’s bedroom and can only enter our own kitchen.”                                                

The survey found that only 15 percent of the students asked were asked to take regular tests for COVID-19 and a further 15 percent of students weren’t asked to do any of these measures.

Other popular methods of protecting against the virus in universities included having online lectures rather than face to face lectures, making face coverings in public places compulsory, distributing hand gel and increasing the frequency of cleaning in university facilities. 

When asked about the other measures the University of Warwick had put in place, Kavi said: “There is a hand sanitizer by most doors upon entering the building and we were each given a thermometer when we arrived. 

“We also have to wear a mask in all face to face seminars and there are many signs around the university reminding us to socially distance and to wear face masks.”

Socially distanced freshers’ week

Measures put in place by the university

Freshers’ week is normally a week of partying, meeting new people and attending events put on by the university. With the government coronavirus measures put in place in the UK, a normal freshers’ week hasn’t been possible for universities this year and they’ve had to improvise.

Kavi’s freshers’ week at the University of Warwick consisted of a range of online events, including online nightclubs and escape rooms, which “barely any students attended.”

Bars on and off campus were open, but due to the UK government’s rules that all bars and restaurants must close after 10pm, there weren’t late nights out for students.

Kavi said: "I feel that I’ve missed out on the clubbing, as well as the ability to meet a large amount of people in a university society. But there will hopefully be plenty of time to make up for this when restrictions ease.” 

He added: “I still enjoyed meeting people during freshers’ week, especially when compared to how boring it was at home for six months, but the freshers’ experience was still not as enjoyable as it would have been without restrictions.”

“It’s harder to meet new people”

“It’s harder to meet new people”

Despite his university’s efforts to encourage online events, Kavi said the restrictions on social distancing have made it significantly harder to meet new people at university. 

“It’s harder to talk online and can be slightly awkward,” Kavi said. 

One positive of lockdown, Kavi said, was getting spend more time with his flatmates. He said: “It’s meant that we’ve been able to get to know each other properly, as opposed to just drinking with each other.” 

The pros and cons of online learning

The pros and cons of online learning

The latest findings from the ongoing QS coronavirus survey suggest that over half (51 percent) of students are being taught entirely online.

Kavi said: “The majority of my course is being taught online, with only three hours of in-person seminars per week.” 

Kavi doesn’t find online, prerecorded lectures very engaging and said that there have been “a few technical glitches” since lectures went online. He added that “we are all still adapting to this new style of teaching and learning.”

However, Kavi found his live online lectures significantly more interesting as “the department have made an active effort to make them interactive, with debates and discussion.” 

Like Kavi, 22 percent of respondents to QS’s online survey reported that their lectures were mostly online with some face-to-face learning. Of the 312 students asked, only 24 students were being taught completely face to face.

Kavi said: “The only advantage of being taught online is that I can get lots of sleep before the early morning lectures. I am on a lecture within five minutes of waking up – obviously with the camera turned off!”

Managing students’ mental health

Students' mental health

Starting university can be particularly challenging on students’ mental health, with only 27 percent of students feeling that their university provides adequate mental health support, according to one Natwest survey

Kavi doesn’t feel much has been done at his university to support students’ mental health. He said: “In comparison to the advice given for physical health, there has been nowhere near an equal amount given for mental health.”

One of Kavi’s concerns is that he might not be allowed to go home for Christmas. He said: “We were not made aware that there was a chance that we wouldn’t be able to go back home.”

This article was originally published in October 2020 . It was last updated in August 2022

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