During 2020, Dublin City University (DCU) was the first University to announce that classes would be online. UCD and other Universities promised their students that at least 75% of their classes would be in person and that they hoped to implement what is called “blended learning” (online and in person classes).
Unfortunately, due to the increase of cases in Dublin, it was put into a circuit breaker lockdown, which lasted up until May. The rest of the country was put into lockdown at this point, with no University holding in person classes.
This meant that today’s 2nd years only experienced their 1st year on the DCU campus this year. Online learning was challenging for many, especially due to the fact that they couldn’t meet up with friends, couldn’t partake in social events in person or enjoy the “dream college experience”.
The College View spoke to two current 2nd year students about their experience of online learning and being on campus this year.
Nathan Croft, a History and English student at St. Pats told us that: “I think the hardest part for me when it comes to doing first year online was the disappointment. The college experience is already something that so many of us see in all those American movies and romanticize, but growing up as a queer person college was something I yearned for even more”.
“I didn’t really know many people like me in secondary school and so third level education to me was a promise of a better time, a promise that I would find my community, there’s always those stereotypes that everyone in college experiments etc. and that stereotype comes from the fact that college is an environment that encourages self-introspection and starting fresh, to have all of that stripped away and be forced into a solitary isolated place was very overwhelming and extremely disappointing”.
“Dreaming of meeting people like me for over a decade, to come so close to having it all stripped away was incredibly frustrating. Lockdown is something I think everyone found incredibly difficult,” he added.
“But when you’re a part of a marginalised community being cut off entirely from that community feels like a stab in the gut. I think DCU as an institution handled it as best that they could, no one in the whole country could confidently say they had all the answers at that time, and so I appreciate all their efforts” concluded Croft.
Another student, Maddie Smyth, who studies Communications on Glasnevin Campus, told The College View: “When 1st year was online it was annoying, I was part of the leaving cert class that didn’t get to sit the leaving cert, so that was kind of taken away from us and then, you know, college years are suppose to be the best years of your life and then you hear that your 1st year is online, it was a bit of an anti-climax I guess because I have worked hard all through the leaving cert and then didn’t do a leaving cert and then I just got into college but I was doing it from my bedroom”.
“It was definitely disappointing, it was never going to be as good as the real thing, which I now know because I am now in my 2nd year and I am on campus. Clubs and Societies definitely made it more enjoyable. I got really involved with LGBTA Soc in 1st year and it was nice to get to know people in a non-academic way because I wasn’t really getting to know anyone on my course as it was all online.”
“You didn’t have those in between classes, making small talk. It was really instrumental and I did radio as well with DCU FM and with MPS and that was really good too and I got to know people who were not in my course, but were in the School of Communications, so that was fun too.” she stated.
“Semester one of this year was definitely different because last year I was at home, so I didn’t have to deal with commuting or cooking for myself or physically getting myself out the door in the mornings. Apart from academics, it definitely took its toll, it made me feel like more of an adult and it made the college experience more real. So, I am really glad that we are back on campus and that I can finally experience college for what it is and what it should be”.
“Going into Semester two, I do feel safe, I am vaccinated, my friends are vaccinated, my dad is immunocompromised, so I have to be that little more careful when I go home at the weekends, so I will be doing the antigen tests that the college has provided, which is a really great measure that has been introduced, because there has been such hassle getting access to antigen tests, so that has been very helpful”.
“They are obviously following college guidelines, but a problem we had in Semester two is that we all had to wear masks, but some lecturers didn’t wear masks and some wouldn’t open the doors or windows. It was cold, but it was a bit strange. In some classrooms we are sitting tight together, and I know some rooms don’t allow for social distancing. That is not being addressed at all, when social distancing is the pillar of the whole Covid restrictions and regulations, but that’s more the individual lecturers rather than the college”, concluded Smyth.
Image Credit: DCU