University Life – The New Normal

By Yousuf Khursheed

There is no doubt that the education sector in the UK has come under immense pressure in the recent months. Now as we approach the dawn of a new semester at the University of Strathclyde, everybody is wondering how much things will have changed. The Coronavirus pandemic has put the planet on pause. It has changed the way we live, the way we think and even the way we buy biscuits at the corner shop. So what effect will Coronavirus have on the way we learn? Will our university experience be ruined by restrictions and muzzled by masks? Or will it exceed expectations and allow us to reach the sunlit pastures of academic enlightenment? It is tricky to say.

When we think of university culture many peoples’ minds are naturally drawn towards the social elements of Uni-life. However, this is an area that is in many ways gravely endangered by Coronavirus. With current restrictions, this semester us students may be forced to temporarily wave a sombre farewell to nightclub dancing, and flamboyant flat parties. This is sad news. Despite first impressions though, all is not lost and alternative avenues for social activities are open for exploration. Meeting with friends from other households is still permitted in a plethora of non-residential settings such as parks, pubs and restaurants. As a result festivities can continue to commence. 

Despite bars and pubs being open for business most live music events and theatre shows are currently cancelled. Unfortunately the outlook for crowd attendance at major sporting events is similarly bleak – with a return to pre-Coronavirus fan numbers looking like a distant dream. As arts, entertainment and sports are a big part of student life, this is a bit of a karate kick in the teeth. Nevertheless hope endures. Cinemas have reopened as well as gyms, so if you are keen to crack out the popcorn or pick up the dumbbells nothing is stopping you. Additionally sports societies at the University of Strathclyde have been working hard to resume socially distant activity as soon as possible. Which should mean before too long all manner of clubs from athletics to archery will be able to resume.

Having said all this the reason why most people go to university is actually for something called “learning”. The academic pursuit of excellence is the driving factor for most of us students at the University of Strathclyde. So how will the delivery of lectures, tutorials and classes have been affected by the horror that has been the Coronavirus pandemic? Well to start with – during the opening weeks of the first semester most teaching will be done online. In spite of the ability to attend lectures whilst remaining in your bed – online teaching is not necessarily optimal for study. Consequently university staff have planned to progress into a schedule that combines both online and face to face learning as time passes. Eventually they plan to return to traditional on campus tutoring. Although teaching will be kicking off online certain facilities on campus such as the Andersonian Library will be open – albeit with restrictions on student capacity.

However university is not just about the lessons you learn on your course. University is also about lessons you learn through Uni-life. Learning about organisation and work ethic, finding out how to do important tasks such as microwave baked beans or heat up a frozen pizza. This wider education is what is going to set you up for working life and teach you how to succeed. Whether its learning how to meet new people or do your own laundry these are crucial experiences that we must have, Coronavirus restrictions or not.

So, will the new normal make our university lives more difficult? Yes absolutely. But as long as we are optimistic, creative and willing to try new things we can always adapt, improvise and overcome. Ultimately it is up to us to make sure that our university experience is not ruined by restrictions and muzzled by masks. The challenge has been set, now our fate rests upon our own shoulders.