By Lowri Lewis, Opinion Columnist
Lockdown saw many of us connect with the communities in our home towns like never before - but these measures were also responsible for tearing Bristol’s student community apart. And even being back in the city will not be enough to repair it.
One of the only comforts to be found during the summer period of lockdown restrictions was the fact that everyone else in the country was in the same position as you. And at first glance, it does seem like the students of Bristol are all experiencing pretty similar levels of fallout from Covid.
But our shared loss of the ‘normal’ University experience does not mean that we are all in the same boat. The ongoing consequences of the pandemic are in fact vastly different for each student, and it is because of this that our community is struggling to rebuild itself.
Fostering community spirit amongst people who are all suffering from varying degrees of hardship is a huge task. And for students, our general lack of physical vulnerability means that it’s harder to actually see the extent to which Covid is affecting each of us.
We’re also in the unique position where we are surrounded by people who live all over the country outside of term time. Pre-Covid, this mix of accents and cultures was part and parcel of the excitement of getting to know people at Uni.
Now, however, with local lockdowns in place, joining people together from different areas means that some are sadly going to be isolated from their family, friends and even partners from their home towns, whilst others are free to see these people at their leisure.
For those with loved ones in lockdown, knowing that the students around them can see these people whenever they like - whether they take the opportunity to or not - can increase the feeling of isolation that the local lockdown already brought about. If anything, being surrounded by other students makes the situation worse.
It’s not just local lockdowns which can make people feel detached from the student community.
Covid is affecting us all in very different ways
Those of us who relied on part time jobs to supplement our student loan were already experiencing quite a different University experience to those who did not, so with the added complication of Covid, these people may feel particularly distant from those who don’t need a job, and to an extent, the community as a whole.
Students do tend to be in financially precarious situations, but when most of us with jobs are on zero-hours contracts which were easily left out of the government’s furlough scheme by our employers, finances can become pretty dire.
Despite all this, few of those who are feeling left out of the student community will actually make the choice to study remotely from their hometown as a result of these feelings. Most will at least try to have the University experience they expected to before the pandemic hit.
But with the list of sports you’re able to participate in dwindling week by week, societies doing their meetings on Zoom and in-person lectures being a thing of the past, it doesn’t really feel like we are surrounded by other students.
And the students we are seeing are likely to be in a very different position from us when it comes to the effect that Covid is having on their lives.
The loss of Bristol’s student community is by no means one of the worst consequences of Covid. But it’s because we’re in such challenging times that community spirit is more important than ever.
If we’re going to get it back, it’s not just going to be a case of doing each other’s shopping, or picking up each other’s prescriptions like it was in our home towns.
Here, we need to be aware of, and sensitive to the fact that Covid is affecting us all in very different ways.
If we keep that in mind, maybe it won’t matter so much that we’re not all in the same boat.
Featured Image: Epigram / Lucy O'Neill
Do you feel comfortable being back in Bristol with Covid cases rising?