‘I stayed up until 4am packing’: These students fled uni to avoid the second lockdown

‘As soon as the news came out, I felt my mental health just drop’

As soon as the news of a second lockdown came out, a choice emerged for students – should I sack it off and go home for the foreseeable?

Students are being warned by the authorities to stay at uni, but whether it’s talk of having to quarantine at the end of term, living with housemates they don’t know, or simply not wanting to be stuck in a grim student house, there were plenty of reasons to ignore that advice.

While it comes with a risk of spreading Covid, and means paying rent on unused rooms, for many the decision was almost instinctive. The Tab spoke to three students who’ve fled uni.

‘I stayed up until 4am packing after the press conference’

After Johnson’s press conference on Saturday night, Notts Trent student Emily Braeger stayed up until 4am packing all her clothes.

Along with the rest of her house, she went home on Sunday morning, leaving only cutlery and bedding behind. “I pretty much knew it was going to happen so I was sort of prepared for it,” she said.

Even if lockdown ends on 2nd December, Emily is going to stay at home over Christmas. “I don’t want to risk going back in four weeks if restrictions are reduced again, only to be isolating for two weeks, to then come home again.”

Unlike other students we spoke to who were planning to leave, Emily still had some in-person teaching. Her classes alternate between one week of online and one week on campus – “I’m missing it all,” said Emily.

“But I got an email from my tutor this morning saying my module might go online as no one is going to the on-campus sessions.”

With her student house now empty, Emily and her housemates tried to negotiate a rent or bills reduction with their landlord. None of them will be in the house using power, however the landlord refused outright. “We’re taking the L and paying it,” said Emily.

‘As soon as the news came out, I felt my mental health just drop’

“As soon as the news was leaked about a second lockdown, I felt my mental health just drop and I couldn’t focus on my uni work at all,” Lancaster student Trina Read told The Tab.

“As soon as Boris announced lockdown 2.0 I haven’t looked at my uni work once; I had to skip two seminars because I couldn’t concentrate on anything else.

“It became clear to me that the only way for me to cope during this difficult time would be to go home. I am lucky enough that most of my course is online and I am fine with that so going home is an option for me.”

If lockdown ends on time, Trina is planning on coming back up to Lancaster to finish the last two weeks of term. Equally, she’s fine with the idea of staying at home until January.

“I’ve paid my rent for the term, and whilst it’s a bit rubbish having paid for time I won’t be here, I think it’s too much to worry about right now when mental well-being is more important.”

Compared to the first lockdown, when unis shut and sent everyone home, Trina sees a difference. “Unis are still technically open so it’s more of a personal than unavoidable choice,” she told The Tab.

‘I didn’t want to get locked down in a house of people I barely knew’

Robyn Walford fled uni, taking only a suitcase with her, when Nottingham went into tier three restrictions. “I’d just come back from a year abroad and was moving in with students who I didn’t know all that well,” Robyn said.

“They’re so lovely but I didn’t want to get locked down in a house of people I barely knew.”

With all her teaching online anyway, Robyn isn’t missing out on much. “It’s so much better than in-person in this situation. All in-person seminars are only 40 minutes and so distanced, at least online we can have a proper conversation.”

Robyn has found uni work harder with the new restrictions, saying “I am very overwhelmed to put it bluntly.”

“Normally I will go to a cafe for a few hours for a change of scenery but with lockdown obviously that can’t happen so I think it’ll be tough.”

The Tab is reporting a series on student mental health this term. If you’ve got a story you’d like to tell us – whether it’s difficulties with getting uni support, or anything you think we should hear, get in touch in confidence by emailing [email protected]

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