By Peter Quinn
For the 2020-21 intake of new and excited university students, the pandemic caused a huge amount of chaos as they embarked on what should have been one of the most incredible times of their lives. Instead, distance learning combined with the difficulties in enjoying the social experience of university made it a surreal and at times lonely year. UWS News reporter Peter Quinn caught up with a student who started his journey at university in the middle of the pandemic.
Luke Quinn is a second year chemistry student at the University of Edinburgh. With lockdown disrupting his S6 exams in 2020, there was even uncertainty about results and what his plans would be for moving into university. However, his exams went well and his place at university was confirmed, though the details for what studying would look like in the 2020-21 academic year were unconfirmed at this stage.
“It was very strange,” said Luke. “A lot of the decisions weren’t very clear at the time so we were going between having exams and not having exams. It was really difficult to know what was going to happen.”
The move to distance learning for the vast majority of courses has had a massive, likely long-lasting, impact on the way that universities deliver their courses. With the variety of online learning resources developing all the time, and access to academic texts and resources increasing, many universities are realising that a large percentage of what they do can be achieved online rather than in person. This has been tough for many students, however, as it decreases on the human interaction element of university and makes it more difficult to seek help and ask questions. In time, students will become accustomed to communicating with one another and university employees online but the short-term effects could potentially prove detrimental to students’ success.
Another major impact of the pandemic was the lack of socialising opportunities for students. A large part of the experience of first year at university is making new friends and establishing relationships with classmates and tutors/lecturers etc. Without the opportunity for social events and the effective death of the university night life, this was nearly impossible for students who arrived at university at the same time as Luke.
“We couldn’t go out at all, so it was very difficult to meet people and make the connections that you keep throughout your time at university,” Luke told UWS News. “First year was very different to how I expected it would be, but it’s been more normal this year. It’s been the same for everybody so everyone is in the same position of trying to make more friends this year. So as a result, it’s easier to talk to people and get to know them now.”
Another aspect of university life which has been affected during the pandemic is the societies and sports clubs which offer a social community for many new students as they find their feet. These bodies have been sorely missed in the past year as students have been lacking the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals who they might share common interests or hobbies with.
However, Luke finishes his interview with the positive outlook that students are ensuring that they don’t miss out on any further opportunities in the rest of their time at university. “I definitely think we’re making up for lost time and making up for what we missed last year.”