By Fin Strathern, Investigations Correspondent
In the new reality of deserted campus buildings and Bristruths making light of mass student depression, most of us are itching to return home for a few weeks of good food, family gatherings, and, most importantly, a house where the heating stays on overnight.
But with the University preoccupied in dishing out ever-changing travel guidelines ahead of the festive exodus, there has been little attention paid to students staying in Bristol this Christmas.
Be it due to travel issues, vulnerable family members, or difficult home environments, the thought of being alone in an eight-person house on Christmas Day certainly isn’t an appealing one.
The University has said it’s “working on a programme of online events and support services” for those staying on campus, but there has been little dialogue with students thus far as to what this will entail.
Lily, a first year Economics undergraduate, has decided not to travel home due to a poor relationship with her family.
“It was a really tough decision,” she explained, “I want to go home and see my friends but at the same time I just can’t stomach the idea of having to be with some of my family for two weeks.”
There has been limited attention paid to students having to stay in Bristol over the holidays.
“I’m lucky to have such supportive friends. One of them is going to come and stay with me from Boxing Day till the new year, so that’s given me something to look forward to.”
Lily went on to talk about how she will spend her time once all her housemates have left.
“It’s definitely going to be a struggle. Hopefully I’ll make a head-start on my units for next term and stay active by going for runs every day,” she said.
“I think being alone in our dilapidating student house is going to be the biggest challenge for me.”
Another student, Chris, is studying for his master’s in Civil Engineering.
An international student from Poland, Chris has decided to stay in Bristol because his younger brother is at higher risk from Covid-19 due to his Down’s syndrome.
“Our family have always been incredibly close so the fact I can’t fly home to see them sucks," he said, “my brother loves Christmas and this will be the first time I’m not there to celebrate with him.”
“Of course, we’ll be on Skype to each other the whole day, but it just isn’t the same.”
In response to how he has been coping mentally, Chris said he has noticed a change in his mood.
“I did my undergraduate degree in Poland so had never lived in Bristol until a few months ago,” he reflected, “I live on my own and have struggled with making friends during lockdown due to the limited social opportunities.”
“I’m certainly not looking forward to the next month. I have been keeping in touch with my family on a daily basis and they are the only thing helping me get through this at the moment.”
The Student Union is working to provide students like Lily and Chris with online activities over the holidays that can be engaging while also following Covid-19 regulations.
They told Epigram: “We’ll be hosting a range of different activities over the winter break for students to get involved in, whether they are in Bristol over the holiday period or at home and feeling isolated.
“We’ve been working with partners across the university such as Sport, Global Lounge, and Resilife, as well as student groups who plan to run activities over the break.”
The full timetable of activities, running from 21 December to 4 January, will be released on 3 December.
Despite the effort, students seem unoptimistic about how entertaining any online activities will prove to be.
“I’ve heard the University is planning online events but I don’t think they interest most students,” Lily said.
Bryony, a third year History student spending Christmas with family, said: “I appreciate they are trying their best given Covid restrictions, but realistically no one wants to spend Christmas on a Zoom call unless it’s with close family.”
Featured Image: Alex Hall
For more information on looking after yourself over the holidays, the University has a page on physical and mental exercises designed to support a positive mindset, available here.
For general information on the University’s wellbeing services and ways you can find the support you may need, see here.