By Vasiliki Theodosiou,
From the rise of online learning to the inability of some students to return to their place of study or even worse to their own homes, 2021 seems to be simply Season 2, episode 1 of the 2020 series.
Regardless of whether one is a medicine student forced to have labs online or one is a student in the field of social sciences, the struggle to find motivation to study is real. Being stuck at home while asked to complete exactly the same, if not a bigger, workload under the pretence that you have a lot of free time since you are stuck at home, is no easy task. No matter if you live in the most spacious and quiet home in the world or if you have to share your house with other noisy people while working and struggling to get by, you get judged based on a piece of paper that you have typed which under no circumstances reflects your mental or physical struggles let alone your true capabilities.
In those difficult times, universities around the world have tried to adapt by being able to provide online learning and with some of them going as far as providing well-being and support to the students but unfortunately, despite their good will, things have not become any easier for the average student out there. Confession pages of known universities that used to be a space for jokes, organising parties and sharing ridiculous univeristy experiences have turned into a space where cries for help are constantly being expressed with posts varying from expressing ideal scenarios of clubs opening and people partying to sheer expressions of feelings of depression, loneliness and the need for human presence and company.
At the same time, one should not neglect the financial aspect of the matter. Taking the United Kingdom as an example of a rather popular European academic “destination”, one can easily realise the amount of students who have ended up paying exactly the same amount of tuition fees as they did the previous years while being stuck at their own home country and essentially having their undergraduate or postgraduate course exclusively online. And if this was not hard enough, some are stuck with yearly accommodation contracts which show no intention of allowing students to terminate them since they are not staying there and are going as far as to deny any requests for rent reductions.
This whole situation has not obviously left students ignorant. On the contrary, the student world tries to be as active as possible amidst the pandemic conditions, organising protests and creating online petitions to the government requesting the support and understanding that they deserve. Some small and slow steps, such as the possibility to apply for extra funding which a few universities recently launched appear to shine some light in the tunnel but the fight for basic student rights has still a long way to go. In the meantime, the vaccine and the new scientific innovations have given hope and allowed for the return of dreams or a return back to normal. No matter what the progression of the pandemic will be, let us hope that 2021 will not prove to be an extension of the challenging conditions that every student had to deal with in the previous year. Let us hope for a fruitful academic year that might even allow us to physically return to where we belong. In class.