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A Student Review of the 2020/21 Academic Year

16 June 2021

COVID-19 has impacted everyone, and it has been especially difficult for students studying at University during this 2020/21 academic year.

Albeit a little different to other years, we have seen universities and students overcome the challenges of COVID-19 by moving to online learning, offering fun virtual events and most importantly providing support to ensure students are staying connected, taking care of their wellbeing and reaching out for help when they need it – something which we think is of the utmost importance at Novel Student.

So, how has COVID-19 affected students? We have spoken with Steve, Geena and Diaine who all study in Edinburgh and are part time Novel Student community assistants based at our Silk Mill accommodation in Edinburgh.

Read on to get their honest opinions on what studying has really been like for them this year.

Have you enjoyed studying virtually or would you prefer in person classes?

Diaine: Personally, I prefer having virtual classes. It allows me to refer to lectures and tutorials alongside having access to lecture slides when revising. Virtual learning also promotes a better work life balance. I can be more flexible with my availability for work and other important activities outside of university.

How have you stayed connected to friends and family?

Geena: Staying connected is so important, especially if you are in virtual classes all day. I chat with my friends and parents regularly and it helps me relax and destress.

Do you think the last year has encouraged you to check in on friends more?

Steve: Yes, it’s very important to do so. We always make time to attend fun virtual events and keep in contact regularly to support each other.

How have you made new friends this year?

Diaine: I am part of the Heriot Watt business society and they have hosted a plethora of virtual events. I believe everyone has done the most that they can, but virtual events can be a little awkward for people. However, we have a WhatsApp group for my class, and it has been more active than ever. I think it has been the main tool which has brought everyone on our course closer and ensured we stayed connected.

Stay at home was the message this year, has it changed what you seek in student accommodation?

Steve: Yes, it’s made me realise I want my own personal washer-dryer and not a shared communal laundry area. This has become my essential requirement towards booking my new room.

Geena, can you describe your 2020/21 academic year in three words?

Challenging, Fruitful, Memorable 

Although it’s been different, tell us what you’ve enjoyed most about this year?
Geena: Coming to Edinburgh and making some new friends at uni has been a highlight. I’ve also enjoy exploring the city, seeing different types of European architectures and experiencing the different cultures.
Diaine: It has been a great year for self-care! I have enjoyed appreciating the little things in life, like enjoying an ice cream in the sun, seeing your friends, walking the dog, etc.
Steve: Playing online games. It always helps me relax and has been my stress medicine this year when I have had nowhere to go.

Do you think the pandemic has made you a stronger student community?
Geena: Yes, I think so. I have learnt how to balance my study and life and try not to panic when I’m feeling anxious. I’ve learnt ways to control my emotion and ease my mood during the pandemic.
Steve: The pandemic unites most of us, like to protect each other, to care more about others’ feelings and so on. During lockdown, I have kept myself strong and positive, so that I can influence people around me.
Diaine: Absolutely! People are a lot more open to have conversations about university pressures and general wellbeing.

How would you rate your wellbeing over the past year?
(1 being the lowest and 10 being highest)
Diaine: 10! Again, it has been a great year for self-care. I personally have found it crazy how having more time for yourself has developed a better understanding of what is going on mentally, and what my goals are!
Geena: 6 – I’d say when the pandemic began, I panicked about getting to the UK successfully as an international student and I was also worried about how successful virtual lessons would be, considering the huge amount of money spent on my tuition fees. However, when I got to Edinburgh I was reassured and also, I got in the habit of exercising which is great for wellbeing.
Steve: 8. This has been a difficult year, but it’s also a year full of excitement and surprises. I learnt a lot this year which can help me in the future.

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