By Sarah Slevin
Arrows and stop signs, a voice overhead in An Bhialann and table service at Sult – life at NUI Galway has certainly altered, to say the least.
As many of us return to our beloved campus, we are suddenly questioning the right way to walk to our destination; not because we are unfamiliar with our surroundings, but because of the freshly painted traffic-flow arrows scattered generously below our feet.
For those of you who tread these paths for the first time, you might gain peace of mind in knowing that you are in the majority when you are unsure which way to go!
Yellow jackets worn by friendly faces were around every corner. Each new student roaming the campus could have had their own personal guide: the abundance of these helpers and the scarcity of students was unmatched by any other Freshers week I can remember.
Despite Covid-19 restrictions being a recipe for confusion on such a widespread campus, a calm atmosphere encapsulated my orientation day. I even dare say, it began to give myself, and many of my new classmates, a welcome feeling of normality. And maybe it was just the so-called ‘new normal’. However, getting to see people and hear voices, albeit a safe distance away, is enough for me after the last 6 months.
But what about those confined to the four walls of their bedroom and the screen of their laptop?
Truth be told, we can only really guess the impact home-learning will have over the course of an entire academic year. And although online courses have existed for quite some time now, there is huge disparity between a course which is specifically made for online and one that suddenly needs to be adapted to fit into the online mould.
Arguably, the most important tool for students who are now finding themselves studying primarily online is communication. If communication lines are kept open, it will not only ease the transition but may also give opportunity for improvements and change. Speaking to lecturers, tutors, and department heads, even if it is virtually, will be fundamental in sustaining as much academic satisfaction as possible. Not to mention, we are all still human beings behind the masks and the screens: social engagement is a powerful but beautiful force and we must never lose it!
It may be different, disappointing and disheartening that Covid-19 continues to disrupt our experiences, education and everyday life, but, like all living beings, adaption is vital and is well within our capabilities!