House parties are the new clubs, and every other way the pandemic has changed uni culture

Everyone’s realised uni is more than just the degree

As someone who began my undergrad in 2018 and will be graduating with my Masters this summer, I’m part of a unique cohort of students who has therefore experienced uni life before, during and after the Covid pandemic. The pandemic has of course changed all our lives in endless ways. It’s been interesting to see, during this first undisrupted year since the start of the pandemic, the mark the pandemic has made on uni culture.

There have been several noticeable shifts, some trivial – baguette bags have definitely replaced bum bags as the bag of choice for clubbing and barely anyone uses Facebook anymore – and some more significant.

Here’s every way uni culture has changed post-Covid:

Being a third year is no longer an excuse not to go out

When I was a fresher, on the rare occasion I’d meet a third year it would usually be in a club toilet, and would usually follow with them telling me to make the most of my freedom and lamenting the days they could go out mid-week like me. This year, final years seem just as keen for a night out as freshers, and more willing to go out mid-week, no doubt conscious of the year we’ve lost out on and aware that our freedoms could be taken away again at any moment.

Pubs and house parties have become the new clubs

Pre-pandemic, house parties sometimes felt a bit anticlimactic when you weren’t heading out anywhere afterwards. But when restrictions started to be eased we realised pretty quickly it wasn’t the sticky clubs and VKs we were keen to rush back to but being back in a group of people we hadn’t seen in ages. What’s more, the lockdown “nights out” we were forced to have, in our living room playing Just Dance with a Lidl disco light, made us realise it’s really the people and not the place, and reminded us of the unique chaos of house parties.

Pub trips and house parties seem to have become a lot more popular post-pandemic as a result. Summer 2021 made us all appreciate the vibes of a sunny pub trip, and being able to go out and actually hear your friends and have a good catch up without having to resort to incomprehensible phone notes.

When you do go clubbing, it’s a cultural reset in itself. Cargos and baguette bag is the new jeans and bum bag, the playlist makes you feel like you’re living in a TikTok and if you’re really lucky, there’ll be a fresher who will try and start a mosh pit.

Everyone’s realised uni is more than just the degree

I vividly remember summer 2021 when the easing of lockdown restrictions coincided with a stunning heatwave, but also the start of exam season. But even though everyone was bogged down with deadlines, in some cases their final assessments, you had to fight to get a table at the pub and the parks were full every day.

People were prepared to take the afternoon off revision or maybe spend a little less time on the diss because we could finally see people again and spend time doing the things we hadn’t done for so long, and this is a mentality that seems to have stuck around.

Freshers’ has become more varied

Pre-pandemic, social life as a fresher was generally organised around the same student club nights. It was more in second year when we started to try out new places like restaurants and vary nights out to include more chill drinks with smaller groups.

Obviously because freshers during the pandemic didn’t have the option of going to clubs, they explored a lot more places. They got to know each other through different activities like going out for food or chilling in the park. Drinking culture seems to have become a bit less of a focal part of Freshers’ as a result. This seems like a healthy shift and hopefully one that will last, as it encourages people to make friends that aren’t just centred around clubbing and also might make it easier for people who don’t enjoy drinking as much.

There’s been more chance to explore our uni cities

Another positive result of the pandemic, it’s encouraged people to get out and explore their uni cities more. Even though I’d already lived here for two years by the time the pandemic hit, I definitely discovered places I wouldn’t have done otherwise.

Pre-pandemic, the trek to uni would be something we complained about but when peak lockdown hit and we were living for our daily walk like dogs and no in-person uni meant being cooped up a lot of the time, it became a fun activity to find new walking routes and venture into different areas to stop it becoming monotonous. More people are also trying out cafes as an alternative to being stuck at home working, and choosing to walk more places as an after-effect of public transport being a no-go for a while.

The lecturer/student dynamic has changed

The student/lecturer dynamic is another thing that has definitely changed. Seeing your lecturers chat to their kids when they popped up in the background of online seminars and analysing their questionable taste in wallpaper has felt like a weird breaking down of boundaries I didn’t foresee. But the way Teams now allows us to discuss topics we’re struggling with face-to-face rather than over a confusing email train has been really handy.

Societies are more popular than ever

Since Covid, there seems to be an uptake in people wanting to join societies, and be actively involved in them. Lockdown made people realise the things they didn’t try out when they had the opportunity to, and they now want to make the most of all the activities available at uni that aren’t as easily accessible in real life. Societies have also given those who were freshers during Covid the chance to meet new people after a year of potentially only being able to mix with flatmates.

Student houses have become homes

Everyone who lived in a shared house during Covid knows it wasn’t without its tensions. Five+ people all with different feelings about the pandemic trying to compromise on issues like having partners stay over and getting trains home during high infection rates made for several awkward meal times and a fair share of beef in the group chat. But in the long term I think it’s encouraged people to become more open and aware of other people’s boundaries.

When household mixing was banned, there were months when your housemates were pretty much the only people you were seeing. With travel advised against, and people not being able to see family/partners, being there for your housemates became really important.

Being locked down in our student houses, and even now with fewer things happening in-person, has meant people have also put in more effort to make their student houses feel like home. It’s been an excuse for us to go more all out on décor, maybe bring the family Wii up to uni or invest in a fire pit for garden parties.

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