On February 10th, the Principal announced the University’s decision to continue online teaching for the duration of the 2020/21 academic year. This, following announcements made in January asking students to remain at home, has made for a different kind of semester for students scattered across the globe.
But what is the impact of having students continue their classes at home? Would being back at university really make that much of a difference? These are the questions that many students have been asking, but the answers may be different than expected.
“Right now, I am so drained from last semester and everything that’s been going on,” said Valerie Lye, a fourth year studying Psychology who had to remain in St Andrews through the winter break due to COVID-19 restrictions. “I really need a break and because I didn’t get that break, I don’t feel productive at all”.
The lack of productivity was a common theme in talking to students both at home and in St Andrews. Hannah Singh, a fourth-year student studying Psychology and Management from her home in the U.S. commented: “Some days I’m really productive and others I literally do nothing. In particular, I find weekends hard because while I still might need to work, my parents and little brother are free, so it can be hard to balance work with wanting to spend time with them”.
As a student currently doing online classes from home myself, I wonder if I would find more motivation if I was back in St Andrews. But according to Jam Mutschler, that is simply not the case:
“I think being here [in St. Andrews]…you do have an expectation that there will be training, or sport, or that there will be things, but there’s nothing,” said Jam, a fourth year student studying Spanish and Sustainable Development.
Regardless of where you are completing this year from, whether you are in St. Andrews or at home, the general feeling is the same. For those at home, as both Hannah and third year student of Psychology and Social Anthropology, Diala Talaat mentioned, it is difficult to find the balance between home life and university responsibilities. But equally, both Valerie and Jam mentioned the difficulty they’ve had maintaining their mental health in St Andrews, having been separated from both their friends and family for an extended period of time.
Everyone is missing friends, suffering from what Jam aptly called “pandemic fatigue” and struggling with productivity at times. But more than that being a depressing reflection of the times we are living in, I think it is best to take that as an indication that no matter where you are in the world, you are not alone in feeling frustrated or upset or unmotivated. Much of your St Andrews community is feeling the same and we should all be leaning on each other for the strength to overcome those challenges, regardless of our location.