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Students face a different connection issue: isolation

Throughout 2020, work, education, and social lives have been moved online for the majority of the population of this country.

Everyone will be familiar with connection issues at this stage; the Wi-Fi dropping, audio or video issues, computers crashing in the middle of important classes or meetings.

But what about a different type of connection issue?

Thousands of students have embarked on a new third-level course this year, and a huge percentage of those have been dropped in to a new environment only to find themselves completely isolated.

Harriet Heffernan is a mature student at the University of Limerick, and lives in rural county Mayo.

She has not attended UL previously, and has yet to meet anyone from her course in person.

“I’ve never been isolated like this.” said Mrs Heffernan.

“All my neighbours are cows!” she joked.

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Isolated: Rural County Mayo

She explained that she feels socially disconnected from the university, and that this is not likely to improve for her.

Mrs Heffernan is a high-risk individual for Covid-19, and said that even if the opportunity arose to attend classes on campus later in the year, she would not feel comfortable going in.

She has missed some classes already due to health reasons, and has had some difficulty in trying to catch up.

“Since you don’t know anybody in your class, you don’t know what you’re missing,” said Mrs Heffernan.

The issue is one that many will relate to; even those who are located in a more urban setting are often confined to their homes for the majority of their days, looking at screens instead of whiteboards, and are feeling increasingly isolated with the lengthening nights.

Motivation is also an issue; it is often easy to get distracted by other members of the household who may be confined to the same small space.

“Being at home, you have to have a strong work ethic,” said Mrs. Heffernan.

In these unprecedented times, it seems more important than ever to try and rectify these connection issues, not just for our computers but also for ourselves.

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