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Student Reflections on College Life During a Pandemic

In the continued disruption of the COVID-19 outbreak, it can be hard to keep a positive outlook as a uni student. Three UC students share their experiences of how it affected their 2020 (the good, bad, and ugly) as well as how it prepared them for life at UC in 2021.

Micol

Hometown: Brisbane, Queensland

Age: 19

Year at College: Second year

Degree: Bachelor of Arts at Unimelb

What had you expected for 2020?

Two of my friends and I had planned to move to Melbourne after graduating in 2019. I came to University College as I felt it was a good middle step between living at home versus independently. We were all very excited to go to campus, from sitting in lectures through to studying in the library, and getting as involved with university life as possible. Moreover, I planned to continue ice-skating with my team back home and work towards attending more international competitions in the upcoming season.

How did COVID affect these plans?

Continuing to skate with my team would have required me to return to Brisbane on a near-monthly basis. However, the borders were shut and I remained in Melbourne for eight months, meaning I couldn’t skate. Additionally, whilst I was in Melbourne, most of my time was spent in lockdown. This meant that the Uni was closed, and I only attended three weeks of on-campus class and learning. Both friends I had come with from Brisbane also left. I was fortunate to have made friends at University College who stayed throughout that entire period.

What was the biggest challenge of 2020?

Although many people struggled with feelings of isolation during the lockdown, living through it in student accommodation was interesting in that I often felt the opposite. I value having time to myself and it was difficult to have that space given we were all constantly at college. Nevertheless, I am incredibly grateful to have had friends and a strong support system all throughout the year.

What was the biggest triumph?

The biggest triumph was how much I was able to learn about myself throughout the year. I had always thought of personal growth as a consequence of increased experience, however the lack of activities to do and places to be was in fact what allowed me time for self-reflection. I was able to explore many aspects of myself, from what helps me to relax through to how I can catch myself procrastinating (i.e. re-decorating my entire room a few days before an assignment is due).

How did your experience last year prepare you for life at UC this year?

With this newfound knowledge of myself, I think I am better equipped to handle the challenges a normal year throws at me. For example, last year taught me I work best under pressure, because even though I had nothing to dedicate my time to besides university, I would still complete most work last minute. Hence, this year I did not stress if I had been too busy throughout the week with extracurricular activities and therefore did not get a chance to do my assignments, as I knew my best work lay there anyway. I have found great success with this strategy and owe it to the self-discovery last year prompted.


Zara

Hometown: Hobart, Tasmania

Age: 20

Year at College: First year

Degree: Professional Communications at RMIT

What had you expected for 2020?

After finishing year 12 in 2019 I was really looking forward to moving to Melbourne and beginning an exciting new chapter. I did move away for three weeks at the beginning of the year to university student accommodation. When the country went into lockdown I flew home, expecting to return to Melbourne just after Easter at the latest.

How did COVID affect these plans?

As the COVID-19 cases continued to grow in Australia and around the world it became clear that it was far more serious than we had all imagined. My family and I made the decision to break my lease and study online from Tasmania for the rest of the year. Tasmania was only in a strict lockdown for four weeks, meaning my year there was as normal as could be expected and I enjoyed most of the freedoms I was used to. By June I was able to resume work as a Pilates instructor and I was also able to spend time with all my friends, who had also been expecting to leave the state for university.

What was the biggest challenge of 2020?

The biggest challenge of 2020 for me was learning to let go of plans and accepting the things that were out of my control. Before the lockdown I would not have considered myself to be a patient person, so patience was a big thing I had to work on. With less commitments and social gatherings in 2020 I spent a lot more time alone than I ever had in the past. This was also challenging, as I consider myself quite a social person.

What was the biggest triumph?

The forced alone time allowed for introspection and I believe my greatest triumph in 2020 was learning to be comfortable and content in my own company. This was a valuable lesson to learn before moving away again at the start of 2021. Even though I found it really challenging having my plans upset last year, in retrospect, I am grateful that everything happened the way it did.

How did your experience last year prepare you for life at UC this year?

I felt more prepared to move away this year as I have become a lot more self-assured and independent. I decided I wanted to go to a residential college in 2021 because I was craving a more social and community-based atmosphere than what was available at my accommodation. University College provided me with everything I was hoping for and more. I have made some amazing friendships and it has been so enriching to live with people from all over the country and hear about their different backgrounds and experiences. I believe that taking the time to work on myself last year allowed me to be more open-minded when moving to UC. Once I was able to move here in February, I was craving the chance to do things outside of my comfort zone. I am thrilled to be able to call myself a UCer this year and wouldn’t have it any other way. 


Eliza

Hometown: Geelong, Victoria

Age: 20

Year at College: Second year

Degree: Bachelor of Arts at Unimelb

What had you expected for 2020?

After finishing school I was very unclear as to what direction I wanted to take in 2020. I was quite set on taking a gap year to travel but luckily ended up deciding on going to university. I was super excited about moving out of my hometown to college, meeting new people and just being surrounded by a new environment. Going out was a part of that, but also just spending time at the campus. I expected it to be a year of change, just not quite as much change as it ended up being.

How did COVID affect these plans?

Once the threat of COVID began to escalate, my family and I decided it was best for me to move back home to Geelong. This meant I was quite isolated at home, as was everyone, but particularly in terms of university. I didn’t have anyone nearby doing my course and really only had about a month of time at college to make friends. I stayed in touch with a few people I had met, however I did lose a lot of contact with everyone from college as well. I didn’t get to step foot on campus for probably a year and the thought of going out seemed like a fever dream.

What was the biggest challenge of 2020?

The biggest challenge I (and my family) faced in 2020 was having to find ways to adapt to the closure of hospitality. Our family business is a pub, so I had to help out with the transition to adapt to takeaway, which we had never done before. I also assisted with advertising and social media. One of the hardest things was having to constantly adapt when we could open under forever changing restrictions. We lost so much stock when we had to close with such short notice.

What was the biggest triumph?

While I don’t feel like I achieved a whole lot in 2020, I was very proud of myself for getting through the first year of study. It was a lot more challenging to learn online than I expected, and every pass was a triumph. Learning remotely was something I really had to adapt to and it is certainly not my preferred method of learning. It was hard to stay motivated with so much chaos going on in the world, but in the end, I got through it.

How did your experience last year prepare you for life at UC this year?

It was strange to return this year. While some of the connections I made with people last year were still there, it was an odd to have to reintroduce myself to people I had briefly met during Orientation Week in 2020. Initially, it was quite daunting to re-assert myself into University College life, as some people who were in lockdown at college together formed such strong bonds. However, after being away from everything for so long I was just so excited to be surrounded by people again. I think realising how lucky I am to even be here this year has made it so much more special.