We don’t feel any connection to our college, thanks Covid-19
‘Wikipedia knows more about my college and its traditions than I do’
One of Lancaster Uni’s biggest selling points to many is its infamous collegiate system. Students from across the country flee to Lancaster to take part in what is one of the university’s most unique and inviting features, but sadly this year for many of us first-years, the college experience we were once promised is not what it is cracked up to be.
Poppy – Cartmel
When I was applying to different universities back in the long-forgotten life before Covid-19, one of the big factors in my decision was Lancaster University’s collegiate system. The way I saw it, it was a ready-made community that I could join, which made the idea of making friends less stressful and easier to access. I was excited at the idea of all the college merch I would get, the nights I would spend in my college bar, and the instant feeling of belonging in a new place. Then Covid-19 hit.
I’ll give it to my college – they tried. At the start of the year, the JCR and the staff created Covid-19 safe events and competitions, which some people took part in. Still, none of it measured up to the expectations I had created when I thought about what my university experience would look like.
I didn’t spend any time in my college bar – for most of the year, it has been closed – and I didn’t feel like there was much of a community in my college at all. I felt disconnected from it and indifferent. I have considered that if I had joined one of the college sports teams, I might have felt more involved, but I have never been the sportiest, and I shouldn’t have to be.
The college has tried its best to make us feel included and provide events and opportunities to ask for help. However, this will never be the same as the events which have occurred in previous years. So much about the university experience cannot be recreated through technology.
This brings me to probably the most important issue surrounding colleges and Covid-19: all of the traditions built up over the years within colleges, the humorous stereotypes attributed to the colleges, and the inside jokes of each one – we have no idea what they are. How can they be passed on when the opportunities to partake in college events don’t exist? In a group of students where there is a mix of years, I feel like a fish out of water when it comes to the inside jokes of Lancaster University – it seems that so many of them relate to a college experience. The strongest connection I have to my college is an annoyance at the distance I have to walk to reach the centre of campus, where many of my friends spend their time.
I had no idea what “extravs” were when I saw the hype beginning to build around the possibility of them. To find out what they’re like, I had to ask a third year, as second years have never experienced one either. There are also supposed college rivalries, with competitions occurring between them, but Wikipedia knows more about my college and its traditions than I do.
Not everyone who comes to Lancaster comes for the college aspect. Still, as a large part of my decision, I am disappointed that the collegiate system has not had a bigger impact on my university experience so far. I don’t blame the college itself; I know they tried their best. But their best wasn’t really enough to create the connections I had hoped for.
Jaya – Furness
At first, I thought my college would be my only way to make friends at uni, given that there was little to no in-person teaching during the first term. My only form of communication with my course-mates was through jarring group chats set up haphazardly in the summer, and it’s hard to build up a relationship with someone over WhatsApp, especially when the people spamming the chats are the ones you can’t see yourself being friends with. I thought that, therefore, my college was going to be my saving grace. This, in fact, turned out to be the opposite.
I vividly remember sitting awkwardly around the kitchen table in Freshers doing a general knowledge Zoom quiz with another random flat in my college. Although the college probably thought this was a nice bonding experience for us all, I have never resumed contact with these people since I cannot recall any of their names. Covid-19 has robbed us of our chance to make friends from our course and from within our college. This has enforced a lack of college identity for me, as I know nothing about my college, college traditions, or even any people from my college.
Overall, I see my college as a location. It is not a close-knit community of friends or a strong part of my university persona. It is merely a convenient location for my flat because I can nip in and out of Spar in five minutes. The only college friends that I have are my flatmates, and even then, not everyone has the luck of the draw when it comes to that. Covid-19 has severely impacted the collegiate nature of the university, and it begs the question: will I ever feel any connection to my college? Next year I won’t even live on campus anymore, so the vague connection I have to my college through housing won’t be applicable anymore.
It’s sad, but it’s true – the college system has completely failed this year because of Covid-19. Although I hope that next year will be better and I will be involved in more college events, I feel there will always be some disconnect between my college and me because I never had much of a relationship with it, to begin with.