Madeline gives us an insight into how the pandemic has changed the parent-child university experience for sub-honours students.
Gradually, countries around the globe have adjusted their restrictions and opened up travel for vaccinated people. As such, the vaccine has symbolized freedom, in that people can come and go to places far and wide, leaving people anxious and excited to receive their jab. For many St Andrews students, this freedom not only allows us to finally travel Europe as we hoped we would when first applying to St Andrews, but it also grants our family the ability to see us in our own little world.
This excitement is especially true for foreign St Andrews students, who came to University by themselves, many never having visited the town and school, whose family sent them over seas and continents with blind faith that St Andrews would be the safe, beautiful, fun place their child had anticipated. Instead of listening to stories, and descriptions of St Andrews over the phone, parents can now experience their children’s reality.
Because Covid-19 prevented parents from watching their children grow and adapt to a new environment, traveling home for winter and summer breaks was increasingly challenging. There seemed to be a lag with parents who were stuck between their child’s former self, expecting their secondary-school living habits and needs, and their child’s newfound mature and experienced self. Parents did not witness their children battle regulations, sign up for covid tests, and figure out how to travel in unprecedented conditions, on top of trying to make friends, understand how to take online classes, adapt to a new environment, set up dorms, and rent flats all on their own, with little to no social interaction with staff and town members to assist their needs throughout the year.
Traveling back into a family setting felt like traveling back in time; regressing into your former, younger, more reliant self, or at least into a home that still pictures you in that way.
At home, parents and siblings assume the natural order and functions of family, unaware of your own personal progress; your growth in maturity and independence. Your mom doesn’t see you taking care of your laundry each week – successfully maintaining each item’s color and size. Your siblings don’t understand that you’re no longer interested in watching movies in your spare time. No one has helped you meal plan, or manage your time.
You’ve grown up. You’ve moved out. You have your own little world at University, in your own little town.
Your parents see their child. You still go to school, but you come back home to be a part of a family unit again; to be a part of their world again.
You see yourself living between two worlds, but some parents may still only see you in one; their own.
The opportunity for parents to visit St Andrews – our world – is paramount, not only for their reassurance that we are healthy, happy and safe, but for our own development. We finally have the chance to prove our growth, our capability, our passion for our new home and our devotion to our own individual lives. We get to introduce those we love most to the way we choose to live when we’re on our own. We get to introduce them to our individual future, and the routine that works for us; to our newfound interests and the type of people we want to surround ourselves with.
For a moment they get to be a part of our world too, reminding them of the first time they found themselves in a place that felt like just theirs. This moment is a catalyst for change between a child and their parent(s). It establishes the start of a newfound adult relationship in which we do not just belong to our home bubble.
The ability to travel permits parents to visualize their children in two homes. Families can understand for the first time that their student’s new environment prepares them to leave the “state of in-between” and become an individual with a world of their own.
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