By Katie Barragry
It’s fair to say that a very different academic year is in store for students in these unprecedented times.
On-campus lectures have been substituted with online learning for most of us. Many students have chosen to live at home while others are commuting to college when needed. Alternatively, others have decided to move back to Galway after a long few months at home.
Whatever you have decided to do for the upcoming semester, there is no doubt it will be a different college experience to what we’re used to.
Not only will our course of study have changed dramatically in comparison to last year, but also socialising, living arrangements, clubs, societies and nights out will differ significantly also.
As students, we are very capable of adapting to new ways of life and we have to do what we can to keep ourselves safe while also maintaining some sense of the ‘university lifestyle’ that we are used to.
What will I miss about college this year? Above all, I’ll miss the spontaneity. There will be no more, “Oh sure we’ll all go for a few pints after this lecture,” because the group I’m with might exceed the current six-person pub limit. There will be no more prolonged “study breaks” spent doing absolutely nothing in the Bialann. There will be no more nights out without strict planning in compliance with the constantly changing regulations.
Of course, house parties, pre drinks and nights out in Galway city will be severely missed but we must be compliant. We have to make a conscious effort to fight this virus.
Many of us will miss the freedom of living away from home and everything that comes with it. In college, we are used to constantly being surrounded with people of our own age group and having our best friends living close by. That everyday class interaction and discussion has been shifted to Zoom and Blackboard.
We can’t access the library without booking in advance. The same can be said for going out for meals or to the gym. Many of us feel trapped in our hometowns as our college friends remain together in Galway. It just isn’t the same.
Some will find positives in remote learning. Many of us won’t have to pay rent at home and are saving money this semester as a result. Pre-recorded lectures may add flexibility to the everyday lives of students. We can manage our studies to suit our own personal timetable because we are not chained to a fixed schedule anymore.
That usual Thursday evening lecture could be uploaded earlier in the week, allowing you to get it over and done with. This also means that some students might have the option to work more part-time hours outside of college. Equally, we may find it easier to engage in sport, clubs and societies as a result.
However, some students may find they have to develop personal self-discipline and time- management skills with this newfound freedom and lack of academic structure. Online learning is going to be a different experience for everyone. It will be more challenging for some than others.
I genuinely believe the most important thing to keep in mind is making an effort to stay engaged. Try your best to stay connected with your friends and classmates – be it online or in small groups, safely and adhering to government guidelines of course. Keep on top of your work where possible and reach out to your lecturers if you are struggling.
We haven’t prepared for this, we don’t know what is ahead and we’re all learning as we go along. Above all, mind your mental and physical health and check in on people. Be careful, mind yourselves and stay connected. Oh, and wear a mask.