‘Home sweet home’ is not the case for all students

Anja Zauers 

Since the decision to close all institutes of education came into effect last month, many students have had to make the difficult decision to leave their college lifestyles and return home.

For some, this was a well-embraced change but for others, it brought fear, confusion, anger and worry.

As students packed up their belongings to return home, what they did not know would be joining them, was the stress and uncertainty of trying to finish the college year.

Many questions ran through their minds; “How will I graduate?’” “What will happen with my Intra placement?”, “Will my grades be affected?”. Some questions being answered yet some still not.

Éania McGarry, Final year English and Media student opened up about the stress she felt about the sudden transition.

“I live in Sligo which is a 3-hour commute from Dublin so moving back at such short notice took a lot of last-minute preparations from all my family. It was also difficult to say goodbye so earlier.”

She went on to share her concerns for finishing the college year explaining how there are four members of her family including herself working from home.

“As I live in the west of Ireland our WiFi isn’t amazing so we have all decided to upgrade our WiFi because of this. Regarding resources, I am only using and reading ones I have found online as I have no other options. I have had to change multiple sources in my dissertation because of this,” Éania said.

Final Year Communications student, Kate Gurren shared how the transition affected her. “I really didn’t want to move home and had hoped to stay in Dublin as long as possible. With restrictions coming in, my family and I were afraid Bus Éireann may have stopped running and I wouldn’t have the ability to come home at all. My mum was also worried that if I became sick in Dublin, I would be alone with no help. This was the right choice in the end – all my friends had returned home and I couldn’t imagine weeks of lone isolation,” she said.

“I’ve found the transition very stressful since moving home. I was very active on campus with extracurriculars – the closure of the university meant the cancellation of all the society work that made me so happy, the reason why I love DCU. I haven’t been at home in Donegal for this length of time since before I began college so being back here when so many of the things I love are in Dublin is really hard to wrap my head around – especially knowing that I’m missing out on all the key milestones I was hoping would make me feel ready to leave college” said Gurren.

“Overall, I am so grateful that I have a roof over my head and food in my fridge but the transition, especially in my final year, has caused my mental health to be at its lowest in a long time,” Gurren continued.

“Of course, we’re stressed about WiFi and academic resources but also consider other elements – many of us have lost access to face-to-face counselling (online isn’t the same), some have gone home to toxic environments. Final years are accepting that their college life is over and they’re entering an extremely unstable job market. People have become carers or have had to pick up new jobs. We’re scared and we’re struggling. I’m not just worried about my grades. I’m worried about my mental health,” she said.

Third-year, Business student Kate Brady explained how being on INTRA placement and having to move back home has affected her daily life.

“With regard to my placement itself, I am lucky to still have my job and nothing has changed in relation to my contract. Everything has changed however in relation to my working environment. I am now working from home every day and the company has brought in some new software to make connecting with each other very easy,” she said.

“If I hadn’t been on my placement for 7 months already I would be even more overwhelmed by the contrast in working from home and working in the office. It’s hard to stay motivated and engaged when you’re sitting on a laptop taking calls all day at home ’ she continued.

The biggest concern for students at the moments regards the uncertainty of exams and assessments. Although an email was sent out during the week, many students were still left confused with more questions than answers.

When asked what DCU can do to help ease the transition many students gave the simple answer of having more sympathy, understanding and compassion from lecturers.

“They’re constantly posting about support for students yet most of my lecturers have adopted the attitude that we have to get on with things and expect us to work to the same standard,” shared Siofra O’Dwyer, first-year Accounting and Finance Student.

Anja Zauers 

Image Credit: Andrew Conway