Education

First-Year students battle loneliness as they reach mid-way point in semester

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on first-year students who are finding the combined struggles of living away from home, classes being held online, and remaining COVID-19 restrictions making it increasingly difficult to make new friends and enjoy the college experience.

While college for many is seen as a time not only to study but to make valuable connections and memories, for many it has been a time of confusion and isolation. Limerick Voice reporter Ashley Garcia spoke to some of these first-years, allowing them to voice their concerns on their experience of college life so far.

First-year Business Studies student Ada Trunwit revealed the difficulties she has faced, saying:  “I was extremely nervous attending the University Of Limerick and living on campus due to not knowing anyone and starting completely fresh.

“Although the Covid restrictions are easing and more places re opening up, since I am an extremely shy person and there have not been a lot of first-year activities for our class, this has been an extremely lonely time for me.

“Also, with some of my classes being held online, it makes it even more difficult to form in-person connections, which is one of the main aspects I looked forward to about university.”

Pre-covid times there were a host of events and gatherings, making it far easier for students to mingle, make new friends, and form new connections outside of their courses and housemates.

However, COVID-19 restrictions are proving a serious barrier for college students, making it difficult for young people to mix with others outside of their immediate friend groups whilst out and about, due to the stringent rules student bars and nightclubs must adhere to.

Hailing from Dublin, first-year Finance student Liam O’Reilly has struggled to make friends, explaining: “Being a first-year student during a pandemic has made it almost impossible to make friends.

Although there may be some first years who already had friends when coming to UL or were born and raised in Limerick, being all the way from Dublin and not knowing anyone has been difficult.

“I have reached out for support and the only suggestion was to join clubs, unfortunately, some of the clubs only hold meetings once or twice a month. I know in time it will get better, but It has crossed my mind if I should end up transferring”.

Although third-level universities across the country are under an immense amount of pressure, as they struggle to balance the task of ensuring the health and wellbeing of the student population is under control and maintaining a heightened level of safety around campus.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

However, with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, and high numbers of the student population choosing to become vaccinated, we can hope to see things slowly going back to university life as we once knew, with university events coming back in full swing.

Although the first year is never without its challenges, navigating living away from home for the first time and balancing making new friends alongside getting used to referencing and assignments, these first years are not alone in their worries and will be faced with many more opportunities to make friends as the semester continues.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or simply need a listening ear, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the first-year coordinator support office, by emailing firstyearsupport@ul.ie to make an appointment.

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