Stipend Ambassadors Starting University Amid the Corona Virus Pandemic

Stipend Student Ambassador, Simon Oyegoke, looks at what it's been like for first year students to start university during a pandemic.

Life is far from ideal right now, as I’m sure you’re well aware. As Freshers, your first couple of weeks at university are supposed to be a time for becoming familiar with your course, going out, making friends and settling into your new home.

The Partnership Development Office recently surveyed first year stipend ambassadors to ask them about their experiences of starting university during the Covid-19 pandemic. We learnt that, across the board, students in their first term at University somewhat agree that lockdown restrictions have not hindered their abilities to communicate with one another. When asked if they were excited to start at University of Kent, the vast majority of first year ambassadors strongly agreed. So, I think it’s safe to say that the resolve is there to not let the pandemic hamper their positive outlook.

Still, you have to wonder how our ambassadors are coping with day to day life? Following the PM’s further social restrictions such as “the rule of 6”, students have to be additionally mindful of how they socialise, even in their own homes. One student revealed, “I live in Turing House and I have to share a kitchen with 8 other people. Everyone I live with is very friendly and fully aware of our situation at the moment with everything that’s going on. We are trying to social distance as much as we can, but because we all live together it’s been a bit difficult. We are also trying not to have other people around our house just so that we can minimize the spread of the virus.” Given some of the social restrictions placed on students in their respective homes, I’m sure you can imagine the same has applied to students desiring to expand their social circles, unfortunately “students have spent a lot of time in isolation”. Whilst it can be mentally taxing and frustrating there’s a mutual understanding between staff and students alike that our current situations are merely temporary, however long the pandemic lasts. And that there is light at the end of the tunnel. You only get to make one first introduction so it’s a big shame that students have had to start University under these circumstances.

However, foreseeing the rough start to the academic year, the University really pushed itself and worked overtime to regularly communicate with incoming students, ensuring all incomers would be well informed. Students were notified of the circumstances they would meet and how the first term’s lessons would run. On the other hand, when asked if they felt they had received sufficient support one or two students weren’t able to give a sure answer. So perhaps more can still be done to support students. What do you think? Do you personally feel enough support has been offered and if not, what improvements do you think could be made?

My personal advice to student ambassadors would be to not lose sight of the bigger picture. Although nowhere near ideal, our current circumstances are purely temporary. Staying busy, active and finding ways to occupy myself have been my saving grace.