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Romanticise your life: How King’s students feel about returning to campus after a year of isolation

Roar writer Haleema Ayyub on King’s students’ attitudes towards the return to campus and how we can rebuild a sense of community

With King’s announcing that there would be some on-campus teaching during the first term of 2021, many are filled with excitement after a challenging year of online, so-called “blended” learning. But the transition back to normality comes with a sense of dread as well.

Many students became comfortable with online learning: the commute to class consisted merely of powering up your computer and, what’s more, there was rarely an obligation to even turn on your webcam meaning many of us had the freedom of attending class in our pyjamas. “I’m a bit scared because there are going to be so many people coming in and out of campus and commuting as well.” one 2nd year Political Economy student said.

When it comes to going back to campus, it not only means adjusting to face-to-face teaching but also getting used to socialising in real life, attending events, rushing to secure a seat in the Maughan, travelling during rush hour to get to the dreaded 9am classes and the list goes on. While this sense of routine has almost become romanticised by us as we’ve missed this sense of normalcy, it can also be incredibly daunting. A 3rd year English student worriedly said “Imposter syndrome is going to be very real, I won’t feel like a third-year at all, I’ll feel more like a newbie”. They hoped that there would be an adjustment period to help students transition from online to in-person teaching.

When discussing these experiences, it’s important to note that people had very different experiences during the last year and a half. Opinions are split on whether it was helpful or harmful academically. However, there seemed to be general consensus that quarantine was damaged work ethic, as a 2nd year Biomedical Science student remarked “I hated online teaching because it was too hard to motivate myself when I was alone”.

It’s the uncertainty that the pandemic came with that made it the hardest for students. Having been promised “blended learning” last summer but then being in lockdown for much of the 2020-2021 academic year, placed students in a very difficult situation. As the future of the pandemic remains in flux, students are asking one key question – will the supposed “best years of our life” vanish again?

Most students going into their second and third year. whose experience has been mostly void of contact, may enter feeling still feeling like Freshers. After an incredibly isolating period where many students felt stuck in their homes or student accommodation, this idea that we are all in the same boat may be important for fostering a sense of community. “I’m looking forward to being able to be back on campus and connect with friends” one student said. Another commented “It’s a bit overwhelming but it will make me feel more like a person”.

An image of the Maughan Library

The hope is that we’ll all be more motivated as a result of on-campus learning and romanticise university life, as if we were the main character in a coming-of-age movie with a coffee in one hand and books in the other. The most important thing is to make sure that the sense of loneliness that is so common among student communities, especially in a busy city like London, will be alleviated by a tighter-knit supportive community at King’s. At the end of the day, people need people and it is important to be there for each other this year and to take every opportunity we can before our university days flash before our eyes.

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