University life this year is far from anything anyone would have expected just 12 months ago. With the Covid-19 pandemic completely overturning all pre-existing social norms, the University of Warwick campus has become a very different place to what it once was.
I am in my second year of studies, so while I no longer live on-site, I have rapidly witnessed the university’s ways of life transform. The memories I have of a busy campus, once full of life and buzzing with students from all over the world, seem far from reality now. The unprecedented circumstances we are facing have made campus almost unrecognisable.
My experience of campus life this year has predominantly consisted of attending my few in-person seminars and working in the various study areas available, as well as using the gym or swimming facilities at the sports centre. I am currently spending around two days a week on campus and truthfully quite enjoy the change of scenery, as opposed to just being constantly constrained to my student house.
The happy memories I made there last year serve as a constant reminder
Nevertheless, my first impression was that the campus felt really sad. The happy memories I made there last year serve as a constant reminder as to how much life has changed for the worse and it is odd to see such an impressive, world-class university being reduced to such little usage. The modern buildings seem wasted, due to the lack of students around, and the whole atmosphere feels slightly eerie.
In September, I went to campus several times to use the sports facilities before freshers had even moved in or teaching had started. Truthfully, the campus doesn’t feel that different now. While there are obviously more students around at the moment, this change has not been nearly as noticeable as in the past. The disheartening atmosphere and sense of isolation were shared in both September and November – the arrival of the freshers did not change this.
Though the university made some changes and has attempted to somewhat offset this unfamiliarity, it is on the most part still futile. One new feature introduced was the construction of a tent for students to socialise with others in the piazza. However, this is just one of the things that remind us quite how much campus has changed. I find my original memories of typical campus life feeling further away.
It has become blissfully easy to find spaces on the bus trip to university
Despite the many obvious negatives, there are at least a few positives to this new way of campus life. For example, it has become blissfully easy to find spaces on the bus trip to university. Other previously challenging tasks, such as grabbing a spot to work in the Social Sciences building, have become far more straightforward. Due to social distancing measures, I often find myself with surplus study space and enjoy having my seminars in big, open rooms rather than having my whole class cramped into a smaller workspace.
These positives make it more tempting to journey to campus, even if only for a peaceful change of scenery and to clear your head. Although it is undoubtedly different, it is still refreshing to spend a day there from time to time. It is a nice outlet to have to get that extra human contact, which we lack so much at present, and be able to just make the most of the state of the art facilities.
Despite this, I appreciate that going to campus in many ways is not as appealing as it once was. Having to study with a mask on is far from ideal and many students still prefer to keep teaching exclusively online for a range of reasons.
We must remember that we are in this together
With constantly changing government guidelines and rules, some students also have concerns regarding their safety when going to such a public place. Though the university has installed hand sanitation stations all over university, as well as signs which offer directions and guidelines, it is still true that your chances of contracting coronavirus whilst either travelling to or being on campus does increase, which worries some students.
However, I feel we must stay optimistic. 2020, without doubt, has been a troubling and shocking year to everyone to say the least. A changing university campus is just another consequence of this global pandemic and, while it is for the most part frustrating and demoralising, we must remember that we are in this together.
The university has made an effort to open the campus buildings and maintain their cleanliness and appeal, despite such extreme circumstances. Therefore, I recommend that you try to visit campus from time to time, with an open mind. At the very least it will remind you that your work does not just have to be confined to a computer screen in your bedroom.