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  • Ryan Gladwin

REVIEW: The Pandemic University Experience

Us university students really have it hard, don’t we? 9,000 a year to move away from home, drink alcohol and try to read some books. Well, guess what? Life decided to do that funny thing it does and make everything difficult. This time with a global pandemic (Oooh scary!).

Student life before Coronavirus was a plate full of laughs, thrills and spontaneity- with a side dish of academic appreciation. However, now the main course of socialisation has been stripped from us, leaving us with an extremely unfulfilling plate of mush. Even worse, the waiter who’s brought it to us can’t even keep his shit together amidst the chaos.

Maybe I’m being too harsh, COVID has been a hard time for everyone. Adapting to an online life has probably been easiest for us students. We’ve grown up with the internet and technology around us from a ridiculously young age. Many of us used MSN or Skype growing up, so the move to Zoom didn’t throw us off too much.

This presents a problem when you realise our lecturers, those in charge, have no clue what is going on. They’ve been thrown into the ocean with nothing more than a surf board. Crashing up against the waves as us students sail past them doing back-flips, whilst they struggle for air. For this I sympathise for them. I can’t help but be frustrated at my quality of education sinking though.

Despite the terribly disorganised end to my time at university, my grades didn’t drop and everything was fine. I found myself sat in my university house the night before I left, feeling unfulfilled with my university experience. Why? What did I miss during my three years at this place?

Was it knowledge? No, I don’t think so. I learnt a lot during my time at university. I discovered a lot about myself, others and the world I live in. How to hold my tongue when things aren’t exactly how I want them. That others live their lives completely different to mine and that is fine. I evolved as a person a hundred times, changing as the weeks went by and made significant progress in this life-long journey of self-discovery. Oh yeah and I learnt about the subject I study too.

Did I not make enough friends? I don’t think it’s that either. I made some life-long friends and created some great memories with them. Even once covid struck, we got a house together and enjoyed every day. We barely argued, we laughed about the mess we were in and played cards every weekend. I definitely made friends at university.

I think what my university experience was missing was real life. It sounds pretty pathetic saying it out loud, but life hasn’t been real since we’ve all had to hide in our bunkers. Having to retreat to our safe little rooms to ask, "Can you hear me?” over our safe little Zoom calls. A virtual world isn’t a real world, despite what social media tries to make you think.

I miss the impulsive nights out on a Wednesday, where you meet a group of people that you spend the whole night with then never speak to again. I miss being in a lecture and seeing that random kid who’s always late sweating buckets as he takes his seat. Or just the simple luxury of speaking to my course mates face to face. My university experience turned into a web series and I’m one of the characters. I just thank god it’s not getting another series.

My time at university fizzled into obscurity, without a bang. The stakes had never felt lower at a time when they’d never been higher. I packed my bags and left the next day. There was no epic protagonist ending like the movies make you believe. There wasn’t even a moment where I felt relieved. Just done. A box ticked with a whole lot of blank page underneath it.

Sat in the car on the way home, I remembered the boy who entered uni. Fresh faced, lost and confused. There’s no doubt I’ve grown since then and university is a large reason for that. I was put in a place where I was forced to introspect, letting me grow as a person. The pandemic may have even been a catalyst for this introspection but the social side of university was sacrificed.

I don’t have many of those crazy uni night out memories. Those few I have, I’ll hold dearly. Close to my heart until I’m old and grey. I’ll tell my grandchildren how the pandemic ruined my university experience. They won’t fully understand yet though. Maybe one day they’ll go to university and see what I missed. They’ll have their protagonist ending and big bang of an end. Or maybe this is what all uni students feel once they’re done and we’re just blaming the pandemic. Who knows? I just want to go to the pub.

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