September 26, 2020
I start my final, most important, year of university in one week. I still have no timetable, and I don’t know what modules I’m doing. And, quite frankly, I’m worried about returning at all.
I Knew Uni Would Be Different. But I Wasn’t Prepared For This
When I started university two years ago, I quickly grew to love the lifestyle. I mean, what isn’t there to love? The freedom of living on your own, discovering your identity, being able to live and work around your friends... I can confidently say university has been the greatest experience of my life. 
But I can confidently say this upcoming year will be different. Much different.
Moving in isn’t something I ever particularly look forward to, and this year, with the vast majority of my first term classes moved online, there’s the question of is it even worth it. Staying at home in London was out of the question, as I can’t afford to be paying rent for a house that isn’t being lived in.
But the thought of learning online scares me too. I like learning through interaction, and find face-to-face conversation a real asset towards my understanding. I fear that spending more time on my laptop than with other human beings will stem a raging hate for the forms of media I rely upon for entertainment. I’m starting to question whether these conditions will impact my chances of getting a degree that truly reflects my ability – an unsettling thought to have towards something as usually reliable as education, especially when you’re paying so much for it. 
I’d love to tell myself something – anything – reassuring, but I can’t. Because I have absolutely no idea what I’m walking into. I can’t use the library facility unless I compete for atime slot in advance, yet if I stay at home and have bad wifi, I won’t be able to access any of my work (the ambiance of a student home certainly wouldn’t help either). There is no right thing to do. From walking down the aisles of Aldi to going to the pub with my Friends, there’s an ever-looming thought haunting me: am I even allowed to be going out?Away from studying, there are even more questions. From walking down the aisles of Aldi to going to the pub with my friends, there’s an ever-looming thought haunting me: am I even allowed to be going out?I am a young student, I like to go out knowing that it’s unlikely I’ll be making it back to bed before 5am. Regardless of how many times I tell myself I can still enjoy this coming year without those things, I fail at the last hurdle.
I’ll be living in a house of six – everyone from varying parts of the country – in a city that is now in a local lockdown. We’re not allowed to mix households, yet my university has planned to have some small group learning in person. It makes perfect sense: I can mix with strangers on campus, but I can’t go to a friend’s house. Again, I’m left questioning myself on what’s the right thing to do. If I invite someone round, am I BREAKING the law? Should my housemates and I avoid sharing kitchen utensils? Would it be irresponsible to travel home and visit my family for a weekend? 
I try and look on the plus side: I won’t be venturing to a club with questionable drink prices, I won’t be paying more than seemingly ethical on a taxi ride, and I won’t be losing my house keys. But that’s all part of the experience. My experience. The part where I’ve managed to learn more about myself than the subject I’m paying to study.
Although notorious for drinking and partying, I know the absence of societies and sporting events is going to be a hard pill to swallow for those who rely on an escape from work. Participating in sport is what often keeps me sane; the full access to welfare, the bonding socials, the element of competition. Not having an extracurricular outlet is an anxiety-inducing thought. How else am I going to let my stressed, work-ridden thoughts go? I’m sure as hell not going to be able to juggle them in the same four walls that I live and breathe and sleep and, now, learn in.By the sounds of it, no one knows anything about what’s going on – and I’m not only talking about the government.My worries don’t end there. Above all, returning to university is a reminder that it is extremely expensive. My tuition fees cost £9,250 a year – this coming one being no exception (who knew Zoom calls were that costly?). Students are notorious for making questionable financial decisions, but while I don’t fit into the category that splurges all their loan in one go, I am in the category that has just about enough money to survive but checks their bank balance with a thumping heart every time. Is this year going to be a never-ending cycle of thinking of ways to make ends meet?
I’ll be the first to admit that in all my years in education, this is where I am most vulnerable. I’m a planner, a Post-it Note connoisseur. But I can’t note down what I don’t know, and by the sounds of it, no one knows anything about what’s going on – and I’m not only talking about the government.
What I do know for sure is that students will inevitably get the blame for whatever comes next, something I find increasingly frustrating. Despite having the label of a student, I am an adult too. So are all the other thousands of university students surrounding me. Being young doesn’t equal being immature – and being at university doesn’t mean you’re incapable of taking things seriously.
I should be looking forward to a new year of learning and opening pathways, but at this rate what I do know is that all opportune doors are currently closed. Perhaps they’re holding my timetable hostage?
Cerys Holliday is a student and writer. Follow her on Twitter at @cerysholliday
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