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  • Writer's pictureLaura Berni

What is life really like for a student in 2020?

Hello and welcome back!

Today is international students day and I have decided to focus on a topic that is particularly dear to me: the current quality of life of university students and the struggles they face in the 2020 post-apocalyptic university environment.

International Students' Day is an international observance of the student community. It commemorates the Czech universities which were stormed by Nazis in 1939 and the students who were subsequently killed and sent to concentration camps. The day is now marked by a number of universities as a celebration of the multiculturalism of their international students.

Difficult to celebrate such multiculturalism when Brexit just cut off the funding for EU students, wouldn't you say? As Scottish universities pride themselves on their diversity, I would like for everyone to think about how many talented people we are going to lose to this political move. How many of the “People Make Glasgow” will be prevented from calling Glasgow their home. I, for starters, could have never afforded the tuition prices. So even though this year is set to be mostly, if not totally, taught online, these students had to accept their offers, as 2020 would be their last chance of free education.

So the class of 2020 was faced with a choice:

  • Stay at home and follow the lectures only, missing out on all the other aspects of university life.

  • Move to the university cities, paying rent to be confined in their rooms.

Some of them decided to move and take the risk. Live in student halls, private or university-run, packed with hundreds of freshers, away for the first time from their homes and families. Not only were they not allowed to have a freshers week, but they also are not allowed to gather for group projects, play sports, or generally meet up with anyone. Easy to follow the household rules when you’re living with your family, or your friends. But think about this:

You just moved to a different country, maybe speaking a different language. All your lectures are on Zoom, where words are always harder to understand. People speak either all at once, or just never say a thing. You don’t really get to practice your English, let alone figure out the Scottish accent. You have lost all of your safety nets: your home, your family, your friends. For the first time, you are completely alone. And usually, it can be exciting. But now you’re stuck inside a 5-person flat, sharing a bathroom with someone who doesn't want to speak to you. If you’re lucky, you meet your best friends in halls. But let's be honest, most of us didn't. So you try societies, clubs, sports. But guess what? They are all banned.

Where do you meet people if you are not legally allowed to meet anyone? You’re isolated. People try to put fences in front of your accommodation, there is security checking all the time that you’re not breaking the rules, police circling around the buildings.

Feeling claustrophobic yet?

It’s easy to speak when you have people around you. And if they dismissed Millennials for being snowflakes, one can imagine what they will say about Gen Z.

“Big problems they're dealing with, checking TikTok and going for Brunch every second morning”

So they are vilified. It’s all the student’s fault for the coronavirus outbreak. Why are they being such Drama queens? There are people who lost their jobs, their relatives, their lives.

In the UK a student dies by suicide every four days. And this is during a normal academic year. Remember this when you're belittling someone else’s problems. Remember that the waiting list for the mental health services (counselling) at the University of Glasgow is 6 months.

Research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that women, young adults, socially disadvantaged people, and people with pre-existing mental health problems reported the worst mental health outcomes in the initial six week period of national lockdown.

Particular emphasis has been given to the effect of the pandemic on children and young people. Numerous surveys have highlighted that their mental health has been disproportionately affected, relative to older adults, and some suggest an increase in suicidal thoughts and self-harm.

This blog does not want to put the blame on anyone. It does not point fingers.

What it does want to do is show that adversities hit us all in very different ways and being dismissive about someone else’s struggles is never going to solve any issues. It is just straight-up mean and comes from a place of ignorance.

Let’s remain humane.

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