First year- Strikes, some more strikes, and then sent home for (a lot) longer than anticipated in March. I dread to think how much every contact hour I received in my first year of uni actually cost… doing the maths is scary enough as it is! Second year- An entire year of online learning. An entire year without stepping foot on campus. And now, third year is currently in the midst of more strike action. Many of us students are supportive of the reasons behind the strikes. But, with contact hours jeopardised once again, there’s an extra sense of dismay, knowing our education has been impacted so much already.
It just so happens that my degree (English literature) has been hit particularly hard too. This undoubtedly has a stronger impact on our uni experiences, compared to those on degrees less affected by the strikes; the disparity just adds to the sense of isolation amongst the student body.
There’s so much more I would have loved to experience as an undergrad at Newcastle. Personally, I feel like second year would have been the perfect time to get involved with the most extra-curricular opportunities Newcastle has to offer. Now I’m in final year and things have opened up again, I’m having to find the balance between getting involved, and being disciplined due to the extra heavy workload and the fast-approaching dissertation deadline. There’s a real fine line between saying yes to all the opportunities, and having to say no and prioritize work. Looking back, there’s so much my cohort has missed out on, and knowing these are years we’re never getting back, and never going to be able to replicate is quite disappointing.
But it’s not all negative!
I think semester one of my final year was the best term I’ve had at uni. Completely in person, opportunities to get involved with loads societies and events, and a general buzz around campus again. I’m really pleased with everything I achieved in that term. There was definitely a sense of making up for lost time and if anything, this motivated me to try new societies, make new friends and explore the city.
I’ve had lots of conversations with other final year students, saying we should get a bonus year as an undergrad, to compensate for everything we’ve missed out on. The thought of my uni experience ending is especially sad because I don’t feel I’ve been able to make the most. But I’ll definitely look back with fondness at what I did manage to achieve considering the circumstances. As students, we’re no stranger to making the best of a bad situation.
I’m sure that no one is ever ready to leave uni at this point in their final year, but for the 2019-2022 third years it seems especially hard to come to terms with.
I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling like the first two years of my university experience didn’t really count. I didn’t set foot on campus for a year and a half, I rarely saw coursemates in person and teaching was disjointed to say the least. It doesn’t help that there were almost 6 weeks of strikes in the half of first year I actually got to experience, which have been repeated this semester.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a great time at uni, but it feels like the real ‘university experience’ has only just begun. And now it’s almost over. I think the most difficult part to accept is that it’s no one’s fault. There isn’t really anyone to be angry at, we just have to accept that the ‘best three years of our lives’ have been partially taken from us.
Having said this, my university experience has not been bad at all, just very different. But honestly, who can say their time at university was exactly what they expected? Whilst it’s so understandable to be sad about it coming to an end, it’s also important to reflect on the good parts, and how we’ve made the most of it despite the circumstances. And most importantly, make up for lost time by enjoying every second of the weeks we have left.
No one really prepares you for how quickly your uni experience goes. My three years at Newcastle University have flown by, despite memories from my freshers week feeling like ages ago. I can vaguely remember meeting my friends on the first day of uni, and going clubbing for the first time, but it all feels like a bit of a haze. However, if I think back to other memories like arriving in Newcastle with my mum and taking a picture outside my student accommodation, that feels like it happened yesterday.
This feels sad because university years are supposed to be some of the best in your life. Don’t get me wrong, I have had a great time overall, but all my memories seem to be tainted by Covid. I would say my favourite year so far has been this year; I have met more amazing people in the last six months than I did in my first and second years combined! I have also had the chance to experience Newcastle fully, and have discovered loads of new cafes, restaurants, and things to do in the city. I think because I knew that this was my last year and that my first and second years were affected by Covid, I have made a real effort to enjoy my final two semesters. In a way, I would say Covid and the strikes have forced me to put more effort into meeting new people, getting more involved in the University through The Courier, and trying new things I wouldn’t have done otherwise.
It would be untrue to say that Covid affecting my first and second years means that I am having a great time this year, however, I would say that if I were to take the positives from the situation, it has made me cherish more moments and try new things!