Imagine moving away from your North East home to go to university in another part of the country. It’s the first time you’ve moved out of the region. Now, imagine that but in the uncertainty of 2020.
Going to university in unpredictable times is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
I was very apprehensive about moving into student accommodation. I didn’t know who I would be living with, or if they had coronavirus (Covid). One of my main concerns was the risk of transmission. Luckily, the university has optional testing for staff and students.
I’m at the University of East Anglia (UEA). The university has implemented a one-way system around campus. My last time here was in February for my Applicant Day. (This is a day of getting to know the department and having a taster of the course which you’ve applied for.) Having studied the campus map before the start of the academic year, I knew where some buildings were. Trying to navigate the one-way system was a challenge as I ended up in areas I didn’t want to be in.
Having moved to Norwich from Teesside, I had to start again. Trying to get part-time work is difficult. I can’t get a job on campus because Covid is limiting job opportunities. Off-campus part-time employment of interest is also hard to come by. If I want to live comfortably and not go into debt, I’ll have to limit my spending for the time being.
Before going to university, I wasn’t interested in the news as my parents would tell me what I needed to know. Now, I check my phone for updates every time there’s a briefing. While those whose parents live in the same region can return home for the weekend, I’m not so lucky. I have to keep an eye on the restrictions for Norwich as well as the North East. I hate it, as I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t miss my family! Now I know what our international students must be feeling.
For the first few weeks of the Autumn semester, my education was online. To my surprise, it had its perks as I could learn wherever I liked. The only downside was connectivity issues, which affected a lot of students. Situation depending, the UEA aims to reinstate face-to-face seminars by the end of October. Seminar groups are smaller compared to lectures, which would remain online.
Despite stretching me to my limit, the current situation has changed me as an individual. It has taught me what I am capable of – working through anything that stands in my path. It has shown us that even ‘normal’ can change, and it isn’t set in concrete. It has brought us together as a community – we will get through this together. Although we have to live with uncertainty, it will not last forever. I look forward to my graduation ceremony in 2024!
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