After a long day of staring at her laptop, feeling stuck and deflated, second year psychology student Kiera Murrell picked up her phone and turned to Twitter. After nearly ten months of feeling unsupported by staff at Bournemouth University, ever since the coronavirus pandemic hit, she finally wanted to share her thoughts online – and the response from over 179,000 others shows she's far from alone with her experience of COVID student life.
Alongside a photo of herself doing a thumbs up, looking visibly upset, 20-year-old Kiera wrote: "In case anybody wondered how it looked or felt to be a university student in a pandemic – it looks like this. I am so exhausted and drained."
She continued on to share how the workload and what she believes is a lack of support at university is impacting on her mental health, "I have spent my afternoon crying into a Terry’s chocolate orange because I have not received a single bit of support since university moved online in March, just like everybody else on my course. Since September we have submitted three assignments, received no feedback and I have another due in a week, followed by two more exams and then another assignment due two weeks after that."
Kiera also claims that despite still being expected to pay £9,250 a year for her course (on top of the rent for her student house), the quality is "nowhere near where it should be" – and yet students are "expected to produce the same standard of work even though circumstances have changed".
When speaking to Cosmopolitan UK, Kiera explained that her lecturers seem highly disengaged and that online learning has been exceptionally tough. "We don't really feel like we're learning. It's simply PowerPoints with voice overs and you get the feeling that once the hour is up, the lecturers can't wait to get off the call. You miss out on a lot by not having those face to face discussions, where you can get more in-depth."
A university student in a pandemic. pic.twitter.com/ugshAeLOTa
— Kiera Louise (@kieraxolouise) January 3, 2021
When measures for a third lockdown were announced over the weekend, Kiera (who hopes to become a counsellor after graduation) tuned in to listen to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's address and felt disappointed that universities weren't mentioned. "A-level and GCSEs were and of course they're important too, they're what got me into uni, but it's disappointing that our exams weren't mentioned. There doesn't seem to be a plan in place for university students, but we're still in education. We're suffering too."
She says she hopes the government will consider at least reducing tuition fees. "We're paying the same amount as before but are unable to use any of the resources, such as the library. I've not set foot on campus in months and haven't been able to properly interact with lecturers or class mates."
When it comes to the latter, Kiera says reaching out to others to form smaller virtual study groups has been helpful. "It's a good way to keep each other motivated and to other students [feeling stressed, low or anxious] I'd say just hang in there and speak out. You're not alone in how you feel, so don't sit in silence worrying and crying. I reached out and the response I got from others was incredible."
She adds that since tweeting she's had students from all over the UK get in touch saying they're struggling with lockdown learning too, and that her university's wellbeing officer has also offered some support. On the academic front though, Kiera says she has still received radio silence.
When Cosmopolitan UK reached out to Bournemouth University, a press officer said: "Throughout the pandemic significant support has been put in place to support students and their learning. Messages have been sent to students on a very regular basis and a range of information and guidance is available on the BU website and student portal. We would encourage any student needing support to contact our AskBU service or their academic adviser."
Over to you, BoJo and co.
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