As riots break out at Universities, one student shares her honest account of Freshers’ week..

When I envisioned my university experience, I pictured myself at parties, making new friends and discovering a new town. I imagined sitting in lecture halls, taking my passion for psychology to the next level and learning directly from some of the finest experts in the field.

The reality, however, couldn’t have been further from this: weeks of isolation during which hours of boredom were interrupted by moments of panic. Online lectures and endless Zooms that constantly crashed due to poor internet. Halls full of people I’d never met, yet could hear through the walls. This was university, Covid style. And it sucked.

I have an underlying autoimmune condition, and in April, I received a letter from the government telling me to shield myself. I was to stay inside at all times, even staying two metres away from my own family member whom I lived with.

The only access I had to the outside world was from opening a window. I had just turned 18, and instead of having the time of my life, it was like life was on pause.

But then in September, I was allowed to stop shielding. I could see my friends, go shopping and enjoy a taste of normality. I was looking forward to going to university, thinking it would offer further freedom and I would be able to make up for the months of lost time I lost in isolation.

Upon arrival on campus, we were met by masked wardens ushering cars to allocated drop off points. My family was given 20-minutes for a curb-side goodbye before I was on my own. It was immediately clear this wasn’t going to be the experience I had hoped for but I was still optimistic that restrictions would continue to ease.

But there was no Freshers’ Week. Nightclubs were closed, and everything else shut at 10pm. My lectures were all on Zoom – to this day, I’ve never met anyone on my course, nor have I met my lecturers. They all said we could ask to meet up face-to-face if we wanted to, but I felt like going from an anonymous Zoom lecture to a one-on-one meeting would have been a little intense.

Four days after I had arrived, a girl in my flat tested positive for Covid-19 and we were all put into strict lockdown and tested. Two days later, my result came back positive. After all those months of being told I was one of the most vulnerable people in the country and doing everything to protect myself, I was positive for the virus and hundreds of miles away from my doctors and my family in London. I was alone and I was terrified.

Luckily, I had a friend from school on campus and she would leave bags of food on my windowsill (my room is on the ground floor). My symptoms were manageable: a cough, a headache and I lost my sense of smell and taste. Luckily, I didn’t have a fever, and my symptoms never progressed into anything serious.

As soon as I completed the two weeks’ isolation, I went home. I’ve still been attending my lectures online, but now I have company and home-cooked meals. I don’t have plans to go back to university anytime soon – after all, what would I be going back for?

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