Opinion | An incoming fresher's perspective

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By Olivia Ruddle, First Year, English

As a soon-to-be fresher studying English at Bristol University, I’m tentatively excited to bridge the gap between school and university after such a bizarre couple of years. Personally, some of the changes I’ve experienced as a result of Covid-19 have forced me into adulthood unexpectedly rapidly in a way that I feel may be ultimately beneficial in terms of preparation for university.

In March 2020, when I was 16, like so many others I was suddenly forced to engage with individual study in a completely different way. The jostle of the common room gave way to the emptiness of my bedroom. Although I was unusually lucky with the speed of my school’s transition to online learning, I soon realised that for many of my friends, all teaching had come to a stop. However, online lessons or not, I was, like most across the country, abruptly physically isolated from the world.

Being forced into independent study, instead of worsening the loneliness of the past year and a half, for me morphed into an opportunity to be able to rely solely on myself

Yet there were some positives to my A Level studies. During the pandemic, studying 3 essay subjects suddenly became the better option. No longer were the mass of essays you were expected to write the bane of your existence. Instead, I could continue my A Level syllabus through independent study.

Being forced into independent study, instead of worsening the loneliness of the past year and a half, for me morphed into an opportunity to be able to rely solely on myself. Given I’ll be studying English, a comparatively low contact hours degree, this self-reliance might be useful at Bristol.

However, the social side is another matter entirely. Again, like many, I retracted back into my shell in order to feel secure in such a turbulent time. With Bristol’s external reputation as one of the biggest party universities in the UK, I’m apprehensive about my ability to socialise after a year and a half of no to limited socialising. This is worsened by my fear of the unknown, having been only able to visit Bristol once for a very wet day trip due to the lack of in person open days created by the pandemic.

With Bristol’s external reputation as one of the biggest party universities in the UK, I’m apprehensive about my ability to socialise after a year and a half of no to limited socialising.

On top of this, the oversubscription many universities, including Bristol, appear to be faced with is somewhat off-putting. From an external perspective it appears many universities were blindsided by the grade inflation of this year’s A Level results. This is surprising when the idea of flexibility has been central to the Teacher Assessed Grades since they were announced on the 25thFebruary this year to be forming the basis of the A Level grades.

This begs the question: why wasn’t the University ready for this? Teacher Assessed Grades were always going to be more lenient, making grade inflation inevitable. Instead, they find themselves needing to offer deferral packages to sort out excess student numbers.

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Nonetheless, I am still looking forward to going to Bristol, and the chance to move to a whole different city in September, far away from the place I’ve been locked down in on and off for the past year and a half. I am, of course, also looking forward to the chance to socialise at last.

After such a turbulent time, we freshers will surely appreciate even more than usual the opportunities Bristol – the city and University - has to offer.

Featured Image: Epigram / Holly Beaumont


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