Joe Hatton, 20, from Rochdale now living in Peel Park Quarter, Salford.

After taking a gap year out of education, I decided that this year was the appropriate time to jump back into things and get on with my life. I’m 20 years old and I thought that coming to university sooner instead of later was the best decision for me. I’m still young enough to socialise with the rest of the students, and if my university of choice has already accepted my application, why delay the inevitability of coming here?
I received my offer in April and, despite the pandemic being at its peak, I was over the moon with the news I’d received! University was still six months away but at this point I was under the impression that the whole Covid-19 situation wouldn’t exist in September. I couldn’t have been more wrong. We now seem to be on the brink of another lockdown and I can’t help but think about how my student experience will suffer from this.
I moved into the student halls a few days ago, and upon arrival, everything seemed normal. Yes, I was advised to wear a facemask when walking around campus, but apart from that, you wouldn’t think we were living in a pandemic. Unfortunately for me though, I’m going to be in the flat by myself for the next week because my five roommates have had to book different move-in dates due to Covid regulations. This has sparked controversy because people are being forced to pay for accommodation that they can’t move into yet. A lot of students are in an uproar about this and they’re demanding refunds.
My course doesn’t start until the 28th of September but on most mornings, I’ve participated in video chats with my lecturers and future classmates. I’m comfortable with online learning but after that first session, the realisation of my situation hit me. Video chats are likely to take up most of this term’s activities which makes you ask whether this year going to be worth the £9,250 that it costs.
Fortunately for me, some students from my course are staying in the flat beneath me, so I’ve been hanging around with them since my arrival. We’ve spent time together at the student bar and we’ve even started working out at the local gym together. The bar closes at 10:30 which means afterwards people pour into the accommodation complex to participate in “flat parties”. These have been getting out of hand, with way over six people (the legal max for gatherings) turning up to each party. Just yesterday the police were called out to put an end to a gathering of over 30 people! Students want to make the most of freshers’ week, so this will likely happen again over the coming days. These gatherings have made security around campus much tighter. Yesterday my friend who also studies at this university got kicked out for not being a resident here on campus, and then later at night a security guard stopped by at my flat to see if he was still here! For me, a lot of these precautions taking place here are just too much and I hope that we have more normality come Christmas time.

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