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What’s it like being a student right now?

What’s it like being a student right now?

At OLLIE, our goal is to work towards an environment where no young person ever feels suicide is their only option. In October this year, as the second wave of corona virus infections gained traction and student lockdowns were hitting the headlines, we became increasingly concerned for the wellbeing of our young people at UK universities.

We wrote an open letter to validate the feelings of worry and isolation, signposting towards crisis lines and other student-led organisations. Here is the link to this post.

Since then, we have kept the struggles of students at the forefront of our minds. We have here some testimonies about what it is like to be a student in the UK right now. Their experiences are varied and cover a wide range of topics- and remind us that being a student is so much more than lectures and assignments. Signposting to help with the issues discussed is provided after each piece.

Moving back to university for my final year was one that was filled with doubt and fear. As the pandemic had affected how teaching and social events would be carried out. Furthermore, with the pandemic came racism towards Asians. As they became the main target for hate following the outbreak of COVID-19. The constant fear of being attacked for being Asian is constantly at the back of my head. This was a feeling that I never had experienced on this level ever before. Therefore, I contacted my tutor for advice on how to deal with my mental health. During my isolation period, I had my tutor check up on me and they also provided me with resources for specialised help.  Seeking professional help is a huge step and one of the best decisions I have made. The University of Southampton provides many resources to help your mental well-being on their website.
Rebecca Ho

For more information about support dealing with the impacts of racism and discrimination on your mental health, visit this page of Young Minds.

Hello, my name is Ashlyn. As a student in her third year of university lockdown had an interesting impact on my life. On the one hand I felt like it was nice to finally be able to do things I wanted again. I could play games, read book and watch tv shows. However I felt lockdown took away some of my biggest support networks such as my university friends and the large social aspect of my life. Looking back I do not feel lockdown has had a positive effect on my mental health, I am now more anxious of people and the world, I am more prone to being pessimistic. However I would like to mention you are never alone, times will be better, although I do not speak from the best place I speak from a place of honesty.
Ashlyn Cordass

Please visit Student Minds for specific help with your mental health.

Hello, my name is Kudzai. Living through a global pandemic in 2020 was something I know a lot of people would never expect, or predict. We have been told, for years, that we have reached a place of common understanding for bacteria and viruses – and would know how to manage any that would come to potentially destroy communities. It’s scary to think that with the technology that we have today, we weren’t able to get on top of Corona – and have had millions perish as a result.
My time at uni has been an interesting one, fuelled with levels of uncertainty that have left me scared, breathless, and out of depth. My mother grew ill suddenly during 2018, and towards the end (my first year), I took a month off to look after her. She passed at the very end of 2018. I later lost my home, my entire family, friends – and so much more so for me, I had to make Southampton my home. Seeing my uni friends go home to their families for reassurance and support has me feeling a little upset, which I believe is understandable. All I want is to be wrapped up in my mother’s arms – but I know I can’t have that. It’s painful and scary, but I have my own space now which has helped. By that, I mean that I live alone – in a studio flat! It’s great, honestly. Routine, daily walks, and keeping up with friends has been what has helped me to get through my days and nights, albeit it’s still very hard.
Kudzai Mukomba

Please visit Hope Again here for young person – centred grief support.

Hi, my name’s Rane. I’m a second-year student at the University of Leeds studying BA Geography (fitting since my name is pronounced ‘rain’). Being a university student this year has been quite bizarre to say the least.

My first year was tough. I’ve had a long history of mental health struggles, mostly with anxiety and depression, so settling into university life was hard. I longed to be back home with my friends and family, to have a sense of familiarity again in a strange, bustling new city. I didn’t fully adjust to being at Leeds until near the end of second semester, around the time of the first lockdown.

The first lockdown for me was especially difficult because I had to come to terms with being back home so abruptly after finally finding my feet. I was struggling to keep up with university work that had moved online and felt so isolated. I was at one of the lowest points in my life, experiencing suicidal thoughts and feeling so low that it was hard to get out of bed most days.

The turning point was finally reaching out to my family and friends, as well as my university tutor. They guided me towards the help I needed. I was referred to NHS mental health services and received therapy over the phone. I slowly felt able to open up again to others and didn’t feel so alone. I took up yoga and meditation, and although I am not the most diligent with keeping up with it, knowing I’ve given it a go still helps my mental health.

By the end of the summer, I felt ready for the new school year. I moved back up to Leeds in September into a student house where I’ve felt very happy. Keeping up with online work has been a struggle but speaking to my friends about this has made me realise I’m not the only who feels that way.

I sympathise with the first-year students this year. I admire all the strength it must take getting through the chaos of A-Levels in the summer and starting university in the midst of a pandemic. The perseverance I’ve seen is really inspiring.

As we head into the next lockdown, I’ve found myself feeling quite anxious about the future and how I will cope. So I try to remind myself everyday that my mental health will always be a priority. Sometimes just getting through the day will show that I am strong enough to get through anything. Remembering that I am never alone and that there is always someone to reach out to also helps ground my worries.

So if you are a student, please always remember how strong, brave and incredible you are for powering through this pandemic. Hopefully the silver lining will be just ahead.

My three reasons to stay alive:

  1. The warmth of my sister’s hugs
  2. The joy of discovering new music I like
  3. Not being able to put a book down because it is that good

Rane Lucido

Please visit Nightline, here, to find out about the listening service available at your university.