Life As A Fresher During Covid-19

I spoke to a number of university freshers from across the country to see how they have been affected.

When Tizzie arrived at halls in Edinburgh in early September, she was excited to start her life at university.

However, since then her existence at university has become a sort of dystopian nightmare.

For Tizzie and her flatmate Marnie, it began with the Scottish government’s announcement that students should stay away from restaurants and pubs. They told me that for them, this was the “epitome of government and university attitudes towards us”. Freshers had already begun to feel like the blame for the rise in cases was being put on them.

Since then, thousands of students across the UK have been forced into isolation in their halls. The students I spoke to all emphasised that they understand the need for such measures. However, they feel that both the governments and universities have had months to prepare for this and the support structures are just not there.

Speaking to students across the country, there was a lot of anger towards the government and the universities. Many felt that universities were aware of the limitations that would be imposed and yet gave out the offers and encouraged students to sign contracts on halls of residence. One disgruntled student said that the “uni[versitie]s are ultimately just a money-making scheme”.

Some students like Theo consider themselves lucky. Glasgow University, which Theo attends, announced a four-month rent relief to students as well as free food packages and £50 to all students to spend on takeaways.

Theo, who I spoke to after the announcement, said that he was “thankful that they changed their stance”.

Although things have improved on the living side, Theo feels that the zoom-delivered learning has not been as high a standard as he would expect and that he is “not getting [his] money’s worth”.

Other universities like Manchester Metropolitan have introduced a cash refund on rent.

In Edinburgh, Tizzie told me that the “Level of anxiety in the situation has become so bad it’s hysterical”. For those students isolating, Tizzie and Marine said that the “support isn’t established or well set up” and “no one’s come to check on them”.

The pair also informed me that those students isolating rely on the university to bring them their meals. However, Tizzie reported that the first meal of the day often does not arrive until 12pm. A few days before, a member of their flat isolating had not received a single meal the entire day.

A few weeks later I caught up with Tizzie about the situation at Edinburgh. Although they have been promised a voucher for food there will be no rent rebate. Additionally, those who are “self-isolating are now allowed to use the kitchen further and the facilities with those who aren’t isolating – which has not gone down well at all”.

The students I spoke to at Edinburgh fear a lack of blanket policy across all universities is only widening the disparity between students based on the universities they attend. Such a disparity has since become more and more apparent and anger towards universities and the government is fast increasing. It is undeniable that such actions (or lack of) will certainly have a huge impact for years to come.

Words by Matilda Martin


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