Woe is shackled uni students... | Jack Marshall's column

There are very few reasons to feel genuine sympathy for university students.

Friday, 18th September 2020, 7:00 am
Halcyon days: your humble (and sweaty) columnist at university seven years ago

These are young, bright, privileged people with their entire exciting lives ahead of them. Sure, they’re saddled with more debt than a Mediterranean country post-credit crash and are set to enter a jobs market which is - to put it mildly - aggressively merciless. That’s one reason to sympathise. But, all in all, they’re pretty lucky kids.

A genuine reason for a bout of sympathy is that a hefty wedge of students’ laissez faire no-holds-barred further education experience has been tainted and skewed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an ‘oh my God, you poor, poor things; this is awful’ kind of sympathy. It’s more of a ‘man, it sucks that such a seminal time of your life which is frustratingly fleeting has been impacted’ kind of sympathy.

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As people gear up to return to uni, I can’t help but think that the pandemic has removed plenty of the fun bits and left all the sucky bits of uni. Going out to clubs every night of the week? Nope. Cramming into packed lecture halls alongside people clad in their pyjamas and still groggy from the night before? Not happening. Freshers’ flu? You wish.

Still, some quintessential aspects of the uni experience have remained.

Exorbitant rents? You bet. Actual work? Definitely, only this time with seminars conducted over Zoom, so much worse. Panic about being spat out into the real world? Oh, you better believe it.

But still, our best and brightest will find ways to enjoy themselves nevertheless. After being cooped up with mum and dad for seven months, the prospect of living with your mates again - global pandemic or no global pandemic - is enough to make a hormone-riddled 20-year-old’s head explode with unadulterated joy.

Living with your peers, none of whom should be trusted with concepts such as putting the bins out, is just the dose of freedom students will feel they not only desperately need, but which they have earned.

Nightclubs will be replaced by house parties with strobe lighting in the kitchen. Stale lecture halls will be replaced by mass Zoom sessions during which the vast majority are too hungover to switch on their camera. There will still be the early morning kebabs, the impromptu science experiments to grow mould on kitchen utensils, and the germy free-for-all that is pre-drinks.

So hopefully they won’t miss out too much. Godspeed and good luck to them all.