Whenever I signed my lease for my student house in January – I did not think this is how my final year of University would have started. As we all know, we are living in ‘unprecedented times’ and the rules and restrictions are always being adjusted and revised to ensure the ‘R level’ in Northern Ireland does not become overwhelmed.
Anyway, I’m sure everyone’s sick of reading and listening about COVID, so let’s talk about how student life has strayed so far away of what it once was a year ago. At the start of this year, my friends and I decided that we should get our student house sorted early this year so that we had the best options to choose from – little did we know 10 months down the line, our houses occupancy has went from 5 down to 2. 3 of my housemates have not yet lived down for more than a night in a week as student life just isn’t what it once was.
Obviously, the restrictions on bars, restaurants and indoor/outdoor gatherings have a massive part to play in the student lifestyle but there is so much more to it than just this. The closure of the university and the implementation of online classes has really made me lose the ‘uni atmosphere’. What I mean by this is that I miss the socialising and studying with friends, procrastinating in the library when I should be writing an essay and even running to the other side of the building to catch the bus home.
I can’t speak for everyone when I say this but for me personally, I feel like I’ve lost somewhat of my motivation for my future. Unemployment levels are increasing every month due to businesses struggling to cope in this ‘COVID-19 Era’ and one of the hardest hitting groups has been young people aged 16-24 where there is now 156,000 fewer 16- to 24-year-olds employed, compared to three months ago according to BBC. I’m a very optimistic person and I understand that circumstances can change very quickly – Im hopeful that in some stage in 2021, (or preferably sooner) we can create a vaccine so we can all get back to our lives and hopefully bring this economy back to it’s one great self.
With new restrictions imposed by the Northern Ireland Executive for lockdown, it has meant that my housemates and I will not be living down in our student house as there is just no point. The 5 of us will be left to pay our monthly rent whilst only staying there about 5 nights within the month. Obviously this is not the landlords, governments or even our fault. This is something that nobody expected but I feel I need to vent the frustration somewhere, right?
Although we’re living in crazy times and possibly a future 20 mark history question, things will get better and COVID is just a pitstop in our lives. I have to give credit to my lecturers – nobody expected that this year would have been remote learning and I must say, they are making it a lot easier for us than I expected. I feel that classes have lost that interaction between the student’s and lecturer but they do try to make it more interactive as it make’s the lecture a bit more exciting for everyone.
Hopefully by the time graduation comes round, normality will be resumed and we can all get on with our lives without having to worry about COVID.
Luke Johnston is a final year BSc in Public Relations & Communication Management student at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn.