By Millie Braund
Awkward and kinda lonely or a chance to make genuine friends and create your own fun away from forced university events? Our verdict? It will be whatever you make of it.
You don’t have to go to university to know that Freshers Week is a boozy, club-filled one (sometimes two) week party for incoming students but, with COVID-19 still looming over the UK, will new students be able to have the true freshers experience?
For most students, moving away from mum and dad for the first time is extremely fun and liberating, but what will life in student halls look like in 2020?
With many COVID restrictions still in place to reduce the threat of a second wave, university life will look a bit different to what we’re used to.
For most university campuses across the UK, strict social distancing rules and bans on social gatherings will be put in place; students will be grouped into households studying similar courses, living in ‘bubbles’ of up to 15 people, for example. Clubbing and social events are cancelled, mingling with other flats or ‘bubbles’ will be strictly prohibited, and some unis are even feeling the need to place bans on sex!
It’s not all doom and gloom, universities are still looking to welcome new students in a fun and inclusive way. This might be a unique opportunity to form genuine friendships as you navigate the new normal together.
Instead of wasting time meeting 100s of people in often fake or forced friendships, you will be able to spend quality time with those around you and make your own fun as students always do.
Where on-campus, socially distanced events cannot take place, they will hold a virtual Freshers week; from DJ sets, cooking classes and movie nights to online escape rooms and cocktail evenings.
Institutions are getting creative in how they can keep the fun of ‘Freshers’ alive.
Many students may be disappointed that their first university experience will be limited and may look to house parties or gatherings to get their Freshers kick. Students should act cautiously, though, as universities have commented on strict restrictions should anyone go against social distancing rules.
On the other hand, this type of online Freshers will allow students to be eased into the type of virtual learning they will come to adopt as term starts, with all lectures being moved online, and only some face-to-face seminars continuing.
This seems to be a welcomed alternative for some, with many Gen Z-ers being less interested in drinking, clubbing and smoking. Virtual events will also allow freshers to meet other students outside of their ‘bubbles’, without the risk of being potentially exposed to COVID-19.
It is hard to gage how strict these rules will be enforced. For sure, students will be able to socialise with a few others virtually outside of their ‘bubbles’, and perhaps this might be a welcome break away from the often forced and hectic nature of first year life.
An important thing to remember when moving into your next house/flat or moving into student accommodation for the first time is that contracts are binding.
If you don’t get along with flatmates, a second wave of COVID prompts another lockdown, or you’re just not enjoying 2020 uni life, it will be difficult to pull out of your contract.
Please remember an agency will expect you to continue paying rent, even if your university is not offering in-person teaching, you get tired of housemates, or you have to move back home due to COVID. Whilst some may offer a break-clause, or a shorter rent agreement, this can be rare for student accommodation, and it’s advisable you read carefully over your contracts.
This is where HYBR can be of great service to students. For free, HYBR’s subletting service will find a replacement (with the landlord’s permission) to help students who need to stay away from home, or those who want to go home and can no longer pay rent due to COVID. You can find out more about this service on HYBR’s website.
So, whilst many may be disappointed by the effects COVID has had on their university experience, there are many opportunities to be excited about when moving towards the next academic year. There is no doubt that institutions across the UK will work hard to make sure their students are safe, happy and healthy as we all try to return to some type of normal.
Go out and make the most of your Halls experience or whilst living in private accommodation, create your own fun and don’t get defeated by the negative press!