Student Shares Harrowing Experience Of University Life During Lockdown
Mental health blogger and psychology student Kiera Murrell has shared an eye-opening insight into her experience of university during lockdown, highlighting the importance of support for students.
Kiera, 20, is one of thousands of students who returned to university in autumn 2020 following months of social distancing and ever-changing restrictions prompted by the coronavirus outbreak.
Parents and students shared concerns about returning to universities at a time when crowded lecture halls and mixing households were strong no-goes, but still establishments across the country opened their doors and encouraged young adults to leave their families, travel to different cities and throw themselves into their work.
Kiera told UNILAD that after a difficult end to her first year, which was cut short when her course moved online, she was keen to return to Bournemouth University for her second year in September 2020.
Students were encouraged to return to their accommodation and told there would be ‘some normality in university’, but Kiera has not stepped foot on her campus since March.
After months of online lectures and a notable lack of feedback from teachers, Kiera took to Twitter to open up about her experience amid the pandemic.
In a post that has reached more than 170,000 people, Kiera described herself as ‘exhausted and drained’, saying she spent the afternoon ‘crying into a Terry’s chocolate orange’ because she has not received ‘a single bit of support’ since her psychology course was moved online.
Since starting her second year, Kiera said she and her fellow coursemates have submitted three assignments with ‘absolutely no feedback’.
The 20-year-old told UNILAD:
Since September, me and many other students in my course have felt that we are being left behind. There isn’t… a safety net during these unprecedented times. We are simply expected to still produce high-quality mass amounts of work despite the fact that the quality of learning isn’t the same at all – it is a diluted version of the education we would have been receiving if this pandemic wasn’t happening.
We are not receiving feedback on our assignments and as a result we are struggling academically. We are constantly pointed in the direction of well-being sites, [and] while that is all well and good, the point of most our emails to lecturers is that we are struggling academically and need to receive feedback – even more so during these times.
With more assignments due in the upcoming weeks, the student asked how she is ‘supposed to improve or better [her] work with absolutely zero feedback apart from a few sarcastic emails from lecturers telling [them] to figure it out’.
The blogger stressed in her tweet that students are expected to produce the same standard of work and pay full price for tuition, despite circumstances changing dramatically and the course being ‘nowhere near the quality it should be’.
She told UNILAD that it is ‘not okay’ to be paying full prices for courses when students are ‘simply not receiving high quality learning’. She also addressed student accommodation fees, noting that ‘students only chose to sign contracts for this academic year because [they] were told [they] should return to university’.
Kiera acknowledged that the current situation is ‘nobody’s fault’, but pointed out that ‘students need support’.
Some of my friends haven’t been home in months because of the pandemic, and are having to live in a city alone and spend Christmas without their family.
Not all students are lazy, or have broken the rules and have attended parties; some of us just want real support.
Kiera acknowledged that universities ‘try their hardest’ to support their students, and that it is ‘always a top priority for them’, but added that ‘at this stage all universities can do is support their students the best they can and offer them materials and resources that will help them to feel less alone’.
The student told UNILAD it is vital that young people have someone to turn to during lockdown, noting that many are living away from home or alone in a flat ‘spending hours on end sat on Zoom with no interaction from others to help guide us through this awful time’.
Lockdown is lonely and can become very dark for some of us. Our mental health should be a priority, especially as we enter another six weeks of lockdown. Students should speak out, ask for help, communicate with other students.
The sole purpose of my tweet was to make others aware that they are not alone; we are all struggling mentally. Students should contact their student well-being services as soon as possible to find out what help their university can give them.
Last night, January 4, Boris Johnson announced a third national lockdown. He stated that schools and colleges would be closed, but failed to mention how the lockdown would impact university students.
Kiera admitted that Johnson’s failure to address university students was ‘not even a shock’, as she believes universities and their students have ‘fallen from the headlines with no regard for our feelings’.
Students are constantly left wondering what to do next, how they will manage another lengthy lockdown sat studying in a room alone. All students want is a bit of acknowledgment as to what actions are being taken to support us.
Kiera is far from the only student stressing the importance of support, as hundreds of Twitter users responded to share similar experiences, with one writing, ‘Why are we paying £9,250 for stress, anxiety and no help?’
i have a 1000 word draft due today & the 3000 word essay due on the 18th, but our tutor left the day we broke up for xmas.. we don’t know who our new tutor is & we don’t have a lesson again until after the essay is due. we’ve been completely stranded & it’s fkn horrible [sic]
Kiera thanked those who shared her tweet and reiterated the importance of talking about ‘how… students are doing in these circumstances’.
Addressing all those in education during these tough times, she said:
A message to all students across the UK, keep going because once you graduate and throw your cap in the air, that will be the proudest moment of your life, and you will be able to say you graduated despite a worldwide pandemic having a huge knock-on effect on your education.
Kiera urged struggling students not to suffer alone, stressing, ‘Please reach out. You are not alone in this, every student across the UK feels you. We are all in this together.’
If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.
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