Written by Rean Rehman.
(The following article reflects the writer’s own personal experiences and opinions.)
The COVID-19 pandemic really messed with everyone’s plans for university across the UK in 2020 and has done so for 2021 (at least for now).
Where university consisted of face-to-face classes and an active social life in pre-COVID times, there is now a new normal in which most classes have been moved online due to the pandemic and associated restrictions, with Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Blackboard Collaborate becoming important mediums for our education. There has been no rebate or reduction regarding tuition fees for students in the 2020-21 academic year and so as students, we are left paying £9,250 annually for online classes which probably cost a fraction of that to run.
For me personally, I have never been resident in accommodation at university. Throughout my time at DMU and pre-COVID, I was a regular commuter who spent half of his days on trains. Which may be a surprise to some considering I live in Birmingham and so one would wonder, why not get accommodation in Leicester?
But in all fairness, I actually enjoyed commuting and it will forever signify the university experience for me even though that may sound strange to others. And surprisingly, it also works out cheaper compared to accommodation despite rail ticket prices being at an all-time high and when I last used to catch the train to university, I would pay anywhere between £10 and £14 on tickets alone and that doesn’t include the cost of having to use the bus back in Brum which would cost around £4 per day.
Anyway, it has been nearly a year since I last caught a train or a bus. Insane, right?
I am in my final year of university and all my classes are online so in all honesty, it isn’t that bad considering I now save a lot on transportation costs and can now wake up even just half an hour before a class starts.
Not bad, considering if I had a 9am lecture, I would have to be up at 6am and I would only reach university itself not far off from 9. And trust me, during dark and cold winters while I’m tired as hell (not that I’m not tired during morning online classes either), it hasn’t always been the best experience. And regarding money, it definitely isn’t bad at all considering I’ve probably saved well over a grand if not more alone on transportation costs. I mean, CrossCountry or British trains in general aren’t cheap.
Some other advantages include also being able to spend more time with family than I would usually do if classes were in person, as in that case I would often be out all day. And importantly since I don’t live in accommodation, I don’t have to pay rent for a room which due to lockdown, is bizarre as many students aren’t currently in Leicester. However, the university’s rebate system regarding those paying for accommodation and who aren’t present is helpful.
For me personally, university also seems somewhat laid-back as a result of the transition to online learning. I feel like in some ways that my usual university routine (well, a usual uni routine pre-COVID!) has been blurred though arguably that is both a negative and a positive.
The transition has had some negatives. Notably, not being able to have a social life with the ability to meet friends and go out heavily restricted as a result of the pandemic. Not that I disagree with the lockdown measures, but I’m sure everyone would rather choose a normal life with no lockdown or coronavirus than the status quo. And in all honesty, even being at university itself physically is a different feeling compared to learning at home. At least personally, I feel that being at university itself actually makes you feel like you’re at Uni rather than just logging into various online lessons.
But in all honesty, it’s important to count your blessings. Overall, online lessons aren’t that bad, and many teachers and staff are doing their best to help students with their education. Transitioning to online lessons from commuting isn’t that bad at all but I won’t lie, I do miss pre-COVID university life and hopefully when I graduate this year, I’ll be able to have a graduation ceremony in person rather than online. I really can’t wait till things get back to normal.