Freshers 2020: Removing Blindfolds; yet the Masks stay on – Chloe’s Story

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Written by Chloe Bayliss –  Student Writer

By now we all know about how going to university this year is not going to be the same as it normally would be. With the situation changing daily, it is becoming harder to look forward to something that I fear will inevitably be part of my downfall. Moving to university has always been packed with its risks, and 90% of the time things work out better than you could have hoped. However, the worst thing previous freshers had the risk of catching was freshers flu or an STI, now we have the looming threat of a deadly virus hanging over our heads.

Since the country went into lockdown this March, the lives of all students across the country changed practically overnight. The cancellation of my A level exams was a shocking blow, rendering almost two-years’ worth of work utterly useless. Separated from normality, refused the chance to prove that the mentally taxing struggle we put ourselves through was worth it, my final year of sixth form was not at all how I had planned it to be. Results day was a train wreck from start to finish, as grades were downgraded across the country, lives were tossed into uncertainty and many students felt as if they had lost the chance to prove themselves. Fortunately, I was one of the lucky ones who evaded the governments classist grading algorithm and am currently preparing to start my first year at university studying History and Creative Writing.

Yet, it is not proving to be all it was proposed to be. The constant flow of confusing forms and paperwork, battles with student finance, evading scams, ID photo strict criteria and the complete lack of communication between all groups involved in the process of registration. I am surrounded by a constant state of paranoia, overthinking everything step and slowly beginning to lose all motivation to even do this degree. 2020 has put a dampener on my mojo, it has ripped apart my previous love for education and spun me into a spiral of self-doubt.

Not achieving ‘real’ grades, never having the chance to prove myself, pushed down an uncertain path surrounded by the constant unwavering doubt in my own abilities.

My university is employing a combination of mixed learning. We have some seminars and workshops in person on campus, and lectures are pre-recorded and posted online. There are no social gatherings, no ‘freshers prom’, gigs or parties. We can only socialise with those within our flats as we form a ‘house-hold bubble’, wearing masks around the communal areas of campus and washing our hands at each station we pass around campus.

It feels as if I am alienating myself from my peers. We are living in a dystopian world, like something from The Maze Runner or 1984. Personally, I am still waiting for my dystopian hero to come and sweep me off my feet, save the day and expose the corruption behind our own governments closed doors.

I am placing my faith in a system that has continually failed us throughout the course of this pandemic. Often, I begin to doubt that I will even get to university at this rate, for as soon as I pull up on site, a second-wave will hit and we will all be sent home and the country will go back into lockdown. All sense of optimism has long since left me.

We are collectively scared, surrounded by idiots who deem themselves exempt from the pre-cautions and shoved into a society that values the economy more than the individual lives of its people. As a fresher, these thoughts are not comforting.

What happens if I do not get on with anyone in my flat? What happens if someone in the flat catches the virus, do we all self-isolate for two weeks? What about if the country goes into a full-scale lockdown again, are we trapped on campus or are we sent home? Do I have to social distance from those in my class, my lecturers?

Endless questions with no enlightenment.

Of course, I have the full intention to try and regain my lost spark and to try my goddamn best at this university. 2020 may have knocked us down, but we still have a few cards left to play and I for one will not go down that easily. I may be a 2020 fresher, part of the governments education reformation lab rat group and member of the class of COVID19, but these things have only made me more determined.

As a young person, the last year has removed the blindfold from my eyes and shown me the merciless truth that is the real world. The blindfold has come off, but the mask goes on.

Chloe Bayliss
Author: Chloe Bayliss

I am a first year History and Creative Writing student at the University of Hertfordshire. In my spare time I love to read and watch musicals (Newsies is my favourite)

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