‘I’m not prepared to sacrifice my mental health’: Lancs students on going home for Lockdown 2.0
‘We’ve moved five hours across the country to be put in a small box room with strangers and told to stay there and not to come out’
Last Saturday, Boris Johnson announced that England was going into a second lockdown for four weeks, starting on the 5th November and ending on the 2nd December. On the 3rd of November the Minister of State for Universities released a statement, shown on the student dashboard, saying students “should not leave [their] term time address to return to [their] parents’ or carer’s home until at least 2nd December – and should continue to learn at university for the remainder of this term.”
However, for some Lancaster students, the prospect of being locked down in university accommodation was not ideal, for various reasons, and so they made the decision to go home. We spoke to some of these students who decided to spend this lockdown back at home.
“My parents started getting worried about covid and the possibility that I wasn’t going to be able to come home for Christmas”
Victoria, a first year film, media and cultural studies student, said that coming home was her parents’ decision rather than her own: “My parents started getting worried about covid and the possibility that I wasn’t going to be able to come home for Christmas so they told me to book a flight asap…I am planning on returning in January.”
Victoria also thinks that it is the responsible decision for students to stay at university during this time if they might be putting anyone at risk: “I feel like students may be a bit more exposed because eventually there will be contact with other students and the number of cases inside the unis may increase, but in comparison it is a responsible decision to stay and not go back home if there’s a possibility that they may put someone at real risk. Of course it’s not ideal but if the family agrees and the student feels comfortable with it…”
“I decided to go home the day I knew my flatmate was going back to her home country”
One student said that both of their flatmates were international students who had gone back home, so they were left alone in their student house: “The house I was living in had lots of problems. I only live 30 minutes from Lancaster so it was a no brainer to return home and be happy in my own house with my family. I decided to go home the day I knew my flatmate was going back to her home country – I didn’t want to be alone in the house and with a new lockdown it meant that I would not be able to see anybody until Christmas.
“I think that the choice to go home is not easy and being told to stay at uni where you are unhappy or feel unsafe will have really bad repercussions for students’ physical and mental wellbeing. As long as students have been following the rules then I don’t see why not.”
“I don’t think my mental health will have coped for a month with no human interaction”
Rebecca, a second year Media and Cultural Studies student at Lancaster decided to go home for her mental health: “I went home because I live on my own, all of my classes are online, and I don’t think my mental health will have coped for a month with no human interaction. Where I work was shut for the month, so I literally have no need to be in Lancaster.
“I really don’t agree with the advice that they have given, for people like myself who live on their own, and don’t have any flat mates who they can talk to, being in lockdown can be really isolating. For people’s mental health as well, they may feel safer and more comfortable at home so I don’t believe that they should be restricted like this.”
Addressing the possible rise in the rate of infection caused by students going home in this period, Rebecca points out: “Isn’t this just going to happen anyway at Christmas when all students are coming home anyway? I think students should do whatever makes them feel safe and comfortable, I know that coming home was the better decision for me.”
“I felt like I had to go home and I’m not prepared to sacrifice my mental health”
Bethany, a second year Sociology student decided to head home as soon as the news was leaked that there would be a second lockdown: “I live on my own and my mum contacted me as soon as she heard it on the news. I felt like I had to go home and I’m not prepared to sacrifice my mental health and be isolated on my own for four weeks when I can be with my family during such a difficult time. I feel returning home is the only way I’ll be able to keep my sanity over the next few weeks!”
“I don’t know how I’ll cope with the isolation of being on campus”
Another student, who wants to remain anonymous, also went home for their mental health and does not plan on returning until January at the earliest: “I don’t know how I’ll cope with the isolation of being on campus especially since it seems pointless to sacrifice my mental health for the three one-hour workshops I have a week, since everything else I can do at home where I am safe.”
The student agrees that “the government advice is disregarding the mental health of students, especially those with pre-existing mental health issues who might be safer at home and who need the support of their loved ones.”
“It made us think that they might shut down airports”
International students are among those deciding to go home, due to increased uncertainty surrounding the Christmas period. One international student told The Lancaster Tab: “I decided to go when I saw all international students going back because we usually go back at Christmas, but because the gov is not always clear with their future plans it made us think that they might shut down airports which will then put us in the position where we can’t go home for Christmas, so better to go home now while the airports are still open then to return back by January (or whenever it is safe to do so).”
“In order for international students to travel they need proof or evidence of a negative test result that dates to no more than 72 hours before the flight.”
“We’ve moved five hours across the country to be put in a small box room with strangers and told to stay there and not to come out.”
First years on campus are also heading home, finding smaller accommodation isolating. One student said: “I decided to go home because after doing two weeks in isolation I really struggled mentally and didn’t think I would last four week to be honest. My flat is quite small even though it’s superior ensuite and we have a small kitchen table that fits six chairs for an eight person flat.
“I feel like the advice is pretty crap considering as a first year students, we’ve moved five hours across the country to be put in a small box room with strangers and told to stay there and not to come out.”
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