Lockdown Easing: Exciting or nerve-racking for Lboro students?

So the news is out, Boris has released his “roadmap out of lockdown” but how are students really feeling about the news?

Since March 2020 we have been stuck in a rollercoaster of coming in and out of lockdown and in a state of uncertainty on whether we as students will ever get back to our normal lives as they were before. I, for one, miss the days of spontaneous FND’s where you’d decide to go out 10 minutes before you left, or just sitting with a pitcher in hand at Wetherspoons. Being able to socialise without restrictions seems like a distant memory.

With the news of a “roadmap out of lockdown” set out by Boris Johnson on 22 February, many students are looking forward to the return to normality. However, in having a year of unpredictability and adapting to a completely abnormal way of living, are all students, especially first years, filled with joy and excitement?

Despite student life being put on hold for most, first years have been hit particularly hard as they are yet to even experience the ‘typical’ student life that is expected when you start uni. The lifestyle of being able to go out and socialise with new people, interacting with course mates and taking part in sports and societies have all been seriously disrupted by the virus.

Many Lboro first years feel as though they have been robbed of a proper uni experience because of the heavy restrictions that have been put in place. In a survey I conducted, students were asked to rank on a scale of 1-5 how severely they felt the pandemic had got in the way of socialising at uni. A significant majority rated this a 5, meaning they felt that the pandemic had completely got in the way of their social lives.

There was an overwhelming number of first year students who said that they feel nerves and anxieties around the pending easing of restrictions. Some described that they feel “overwhelmed”, “anxious” and “unnerved”.

Returning to a normal student life could be quite daunting in both a social and academic way, even for those who have already experienced it in previous years. This feeling could be increased for first year students because they have only experienced uni under restrictions. The lack of socialising and in person teaching has limited the opportunities for students to meet new people etc. This has meant that many students have felt that they have struggled to make friends with course mates due to the lack of physical interaction. One student said that “the fact my lectures and seminars have been online, has meant I feel like I haven’t been able to make friends with people on my course”.

Although for some students this hope of returning to those nights out, social events or even simply being back in lectures theatres is exciting; this needs to be recognised as a massive change for first years who have not experienced a Covid free uni lifestyle. It will be a total change in the way students can spend their days as well as expanding who they can socialise with.

One student wrote that they would want “guidance on how to balance a new and more substantial social life along with studies that will become more strenuous, that will have a new physical structure compared to what we now see as familiar online.”

When speaking to second and third-year students they expressed how the jump from first to second year regarding workload can already be quite strenuous. Therefore, current first years are not only going to have to adapt their lifestyle back to normality but also adapt to a more intense workload in an unfamiliar setting.

Despite these anxieties around the pending easing of lockdown, many students did express things they were looking forward to when the road map begins such as “getting back into sport”, “meeting new people” and of course “a pint in the pub”.
We remain hopeful that the roadmap is successful as we begin the process of putting Covid restrictions and lockdowns in the past so we can get back to normal and so that first years especially can have the chance to experience uni life as it was, before Covid.


Feature image credit: Number 10 (Creative Commons license)