A world without Coronavirus seems almost impossible to believe now, almost a utopian paradise where I can go out to the pub without having to give details for Track and Trace or having run home because I’ve forgotten my facemask.
My freshers experience feels like a frantic struggle to meet people, a frenzy of gathering social media names so I can then make up the lost meetings that would’ve happened in class. Although gen z are the “most Internet-dependent generation” (international study of Gen Z, conducted by The Centre for Generational Kinetics and commissioned by WP Engine) I did not want my freshers experience to feel like online dating. First contact being made digitally and then meeting up (socially distanced) in person, there’s almost a disconnect. The experience doesn’t feel as authentic as seeing someone in your class struggle and helping them or going to a society meet-up. There’s hardly room for something funny or embarrassing to happen which everyone instantly bonds over. I can’t look across at a friend in a lecture and share a look that we both instantly know what the other means. Instead I have to stare at a laptop screen into the blank icons without a face to put to a name to. It’s frustrating because I want to get the most out of my University experience but with all the odds stacked against me it feels impossible.
Whilst my experience is very digital and making me (and all the other 2020 freshers) feel removed from the ‘true’ fresher’s experience, students in other years had the experience that (until March) I thought that I was going to have. Third year student Iman Mackenzie (Brig newspaper comment editor and Journalism student) tells me of her fresher’s experience which makes me nostalgic for things I haven’t experienced.
Mackenzie went to multiple flat parties and went out multiple times which is the opposite of a coronavirus dictated fresher’s and says that most of her friends were made in her seminars and the Brig newspaper. Whilst in the current situation it is still possible to try and reach out typing a message and staring at a laptop screen does not feel the same as going to a party and introducing yourself to tonnes of people hoping that amongst the crowd you find a few people that you click with.
Seminars being digital also means that there’s no chance of before/after class small talk with other people, as awkward as small talk can be, I miss that normality of hanging out with people after class. Instead I move from my desk to my bed not speaking to anyone.
I keep hearing the phrase ‘new normal’ being tossed around but last time I checked a global pandemic was not a normal thing. The ‘normal’ that I want is the fresher’s experience that Mackenzie describes of going to flat parties to meet people without the fear of spreading a life threatening disease, going to seminars so that I can talk to people instead of typing on my laptop. Fresher’s now is not as fun as fresher’s then, but maybe one day it can be.