Being a university student is hard enough but being one during a pandemic is even harder. I’m a third year student at the University of Wales Trinity St David at their Lampeter Campus. Founded in 1822 by Bishop Thomas Burgess, it is the oldest and one of the smallest universities in Wales, counts Prince Charles as the Patron of the University and has fewer than 2000 students.
This pandemic has not been easy to deal with. I was at home in March, visiting my family when the news came that COVID was spreading and all schools and universities would close. Considering I’d only been making plans to go back to university a few days before, it was a shock. A lot of my belongings were in my room at university and I couldn’t travel to get them, couldn’t say goodbye to friends that would be graduating in June. Making the transition from in class learning to online learning was also very difficult, especially at the beginning, I struggled to concentrate and realised how much I took human interaction for granted.
Another thing I missed was my freedom, going from having my own space and routine to having to adapt to a routine with three other people again was tough. I also missed seeing people and going places. So when the news came that I could return in January I was full of excitement, however when I arrived back in Lampeter it was like living in a parallel universe.
The thing about Lampeter is although it’s a tiny town, it’s a place where everyone knows everyone. Where you can’t walk down the street without seeing someone you know, where everyone says hello or “Bore-da” to you, no matter if you know them or you don’t. Everyone treats you as a friend, no matter where you go and there’s a real sense of community in the town. Because it’s a tiny town, it’s naturally quiet anyway but coming back after lockdown was surreal, especially after coming from a busy city like Cardiff. It’s like living in a ghost town, nobody about, coffee shops closed and signs saying “No visitors” everywhere. Walking past the pubs was especially strange.
When I first arrived in Lampeter in 2018, full of nerves and excited for the years ahead, ending my university journey in a pandemic definitely did not cross my mind. Saying that, I have been very lucky in the sense that I have been able to have an enjoyable university experience, even if it is a very different one at the best of times as it’s so small and the only nightclub in the village is on campus! However I’ve made good friends and memories that will last a lifetime.
Although we are still in a pandemic, I am very fortunate that there are minimal COVID cases in Lampeter and therefore, the University reopened and I was able to go back this month. Lectures are still online for the time being (although blended learning is hopefully going to be reintroduced next month) and not many students are back so it’s definitely quieter than usual. I also cannot return to my job at the Student Union Bar which is disappointing as I enjoyed working there. However, despite this, I am very grateful to be able to return to University and make the most of my last few months here in Lampeter, even in these strange times.
By Georgie Vanderkolk-Pellow
Photos by Saffron Pellow