Life at UCB through the eyes of our international student bloggers

What being a first year student was like during the pandemic

What being a first year student was like during the pandemic

What was it like being a first year student during a global pandemic? Well, here’s a taster for you: it’s nothing like what you’d expect. 

Amid the month of waiting for my A-level results, the majority of my friends were ecstatic about the idea of attending Freshers’ Week. It is a tradition for first year students and a must to attend, it’s a time for everyone to settle in before the onslaught of academia. In short terms, just party and let all hell break loose. It’s a chance to meet people and find your crowd, but obviously because of the pandemic, there were some restrictions. Therefore, for the whole week before my course started, I was holed up in my room with my nose buried beneath a book. 

Attending lectures and seminars was another story. Blinded by the rose-tinted lenses of TV series revolving around campuses and stories from another experienced student, without considering the situation I was stuck in, I do admit that I had expected more. I remember the frustration bubbling in the pit of my gut every time the wifi disconnected or my laptop shut off mid-lecture due to overheating. I remember angry, hot tears that stained my cheeks as I bellowed about misunderstood questions and confusing assignments, not being able to communicate properly due to the limits of meeting lecturers. Despite all that, seminars have been my favourite as I am fortunate enough to meet my professors, as well as my classmates face-to-face. 

Despite having met people and made connections, being closed off from human interactions for a long period of time had greatly affected my social skills. The idea of going out and meeting new people made me light-headed, and if I did meet people, I’d get hot flushes, crimson spreads across my cheeks, heavy heart palpitations and sweaty palms. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, but I’m also glad to have met people who pushed me to my limits, the ones who recognised my potential and encouraged me to reach for it. 

Either way, not everything was as bad as it seems. I have my favourite moments too, one in particular during Christmas. Not just because it is the holiday I most look forward to, but I favoured it because the University had provided us with free food. I mean, who doesn’t want free food? I remember the feeling of numbed cheeks and fingers as I carried one of the food boxes up to my flat, I remember the whiff of potatoes and turkey baking, the taste of the sweet cranberry sauce and the soft brownies, melting onto my tongue as soon as I took a bite out of it.

Around the earliest hours of the morning, I’d been woken by the low, soft hums of Michael Buble, playing from outside and seeping through the crack in my windows. I remember sending a text, thanking whoever played the song and to which they replied, ‘My pleasure.’ The most memorable one was probably the night it first snowed, it was brief and didn’t even settle. But seeing the snow slowly fall, passing under the fluorescent street lights and onto the ground,  something about it was so peaceful. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel a warm feeling spread across my chest as I watched people yelp and jump around under the snowfall.

To conclude, a student’s experience in the first year varies, whether it is during a pandemic or not. So if you’re going to be a first year student now or next year, or the next, next year… Just be prepared for the unexpected. As they all say: expect the unexpected.

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