October 01, 2020
Imagine having overcome a reformed and rigid GCSE system. Next, your A-levels are cancelled and you have to forcibly fight your way to a university place. 
Wondering How Uni Students Are Feeling? Like Weve Been Thrown To The Wolves
Then, you’re forced into social isolation in a new place with people you don’t know, all the while being told to “not kill granny” by a man who discharged hospital patients into care homes. Meet the students of 2020. 
I’m in my first year of university, and I feel like I’m being thrown to the wolves. 
There was something heavily ironic in Boris Johnson’s declaration that the government will ensure that “schools, colleges and universities stay open – because nothing is more important than the education, health and well-being of our young people”.
Yes, you read health. After a week of outbreaks in halls of residences around the country, it feels like students have been set-up, and let down. Related... We Speak To A Student On Lockdown At Their University Campus Your Self-Care Toolkit For Dealing With The Tough Months Ahead Who would have thought that putting thousands of students into relatively crowded accommodation where they may have to share facilities would result in a spike? Who could have guessed? Yes, you’re right, everybody apparently except the head of test and trace. 
This is not simply the reductive narrative of “students having parties” and “freshers’ week being cancelled”. Students may choose to have parties, but those of us that choose to abstain are still forced to pass them in the kitchen, touch the same door handles and breathe the same air.  
To be failed and abandoned time and time again, at first by an algorithm, then by institutions is draining and hurtful on a level I cannot express through words.
Apparently, we have a Universities Minister. Do you know who the Universities Minister is? No? Thought not. Where is she? And what’s she doing in this national crisis? I’m not too sure. 
It is now impossible to talk about the pervasive loneliness and uncertainty facing students without being greeted by a generational competition of who has it hardest, who is loneliest and “worse off”.
We’re dismissed as “lazy”, so lazy we didn’t even do our exams; we’re told to “have perspective” and that “there are worse things”, when we know mental health does not care for material circumstances.
Consider having no one to turn to – no Friends or family – masks are more familiar than names for new students. Instead, we rely on interaction with people in our corridor we’ve only just met. We are literally, and emotionally paying for this. The complete disregard for students is clear and callous, as our value is no longer equated to what we contribute to education, but ostensibly the amount of money we pay as rent.If the only opportunity to meet people is to attend a stressful freshers’ activity where social distancing may be difficult to maintain, what do you do?
Do you align with the crowd, go along with “herd mentality” and endanger yourself in the process? Or stay isolated in your room with your thoughts and be known as the “other”?
I’m frightened. 
The news is inescapable: nightly patrols, students left without food for days, legal threats, except this time it’s not a dystopian horror story, it’s university, the respite we craved after months of endless limbo. We’ve been abandoned again.   
As Gavin Williamson sought to reassure students that they will be allowed to return home for the holidays, we were reminded of his very firm “No U-turn, no change” statement after the A-levels fiasco on August, 15. Two days later, the government made a U-turn.
But of course, not everything is “unprecedented” – this situation was entirely foreseeable. We’re told to “follow the rules if [we] want to be home for Christmas” when the rules are dire. Under such rules, I do not need to social distance with 17 other people at university. That’s 18 different ‘households.’ In the North East. Indoors. The same North East that is under local lockdown measures. 
We cannot simply defer our place – contracts are legally binding, we’ve already been blamed for our impact on this year’s Year 13. We’ve been blamed for, well, everything. 
So what is there to look forward to? Please tell us. We will try, we will keep going with the same resilience which saw us through exam results and the months of lockdown, but the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, a recession and mass unemployment is overwhelmingly dispiriting. 
The days are too long, the blows keep coming, and it’s hard not to imagine that many are reaching their emotional limit before term has even started. Schools and universities have shouldered the responsibility the government left behind, with universities setting up testing centres. Don’t blame the headteachers and lecturers and tutors who are working beyond their means, blame the policies, the systemic roots of spikes. 
The mental health support we desperately need as universities express their support frequently translates into lengthy waiting lists and yet more abandonment. What does “we’re here for you” actually mean? There is nothing tangible. The transition to university is difficult enough without the pandemic compounding it. 
The complete disregard for students is clear and callous, as our value is no longer equated to what we contribute to education, but ostensibly the amount of money we pay as rent. 
How can we value an education system that doesn’t value us?
Kimi Chaddah is a first year university student and freelance writer.  Related... Unis May End Lectures Early To Get Students Home For Christmas Opinion: How Can We Talk About Body Image In Schools Without Criticising Capitalism? 7,000 New Covid Cases And 71 Deaths In Worst Daily Jump For Months It's Now Illegal Not To Self-Isolate If You Are Contacted By Test And Trace In England
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