By Gianna Stanley
No parties, no alcohol, and no rush to get to the 9am lectures; the university experience is changing drastically. Many students are not happy with these changes, and the UK is seeing 1 in 5 students choosing to defer to a 2021 entry.
A lack of routine and socialisation could send many into a depressive state. It could seem almost like a perpetual cycle consisting of waking up, discussing with your friendly monitor screen, cooking meals, and then heading back to bed. Arguably, this is a very carpe diem situation and your experience will depend on what and how you make of it. Importantly, some students are in different positions. For example, those studying medicine will undoubtedly have face-to-face and practical classes. On the other hand, students studying less practical subjects like the humanities will have the majority of lessons online. Therefore, the experience will differ massively for each student.
This year, instead of waking up to the buzz of students scattering around campus to make their way to classes, students will be adjusting their eyes to a brightly lit computer screen. It is fair to say that their main source of socialisation and communication will indeed be through online calls, as many universities are doing welcome week and inductions online. On the other hand, for many students, this experience could still be a new source of independence. It seems as though attending university is a new rite of passage for many young people. First-year Evelyn Heis has decided to make the most of her opportunity, explaining that ‘if not now, when?’. However, she prefers working at home and feels ‘the most productive there’. Thus, it is clear that many students will flourish in a homely environment and online learning, but it is not for everybody. For example, Carmen Anderson has decided to defer until 2021 because her ‘course leans more on the practical side and it was not really an option to do online learning’ as she would not have received the same standard of learning.
Therefore, whilst many might be leaning towards a gap year, what might hinder their decision is: will the gap year be worth it? Many students across the world are scrutinising the idea, with the pros outweighing the cons for many. A typical gap year consists of travelling, volunteering, or working, however, these options are very tough to achieve this year. Due to the economical situation, jobs are very limited, especially in a small city like Gibraltar. The idea of travelling is very ambiguous, as the conditions that countries will be in throughout the next couple of months are too unknown to plan ahead. It is important to note that students can still travel this year, but many might be hesitant due to the new restrictions and the risk of spreading the virus further. Perhaps the safest option is staying at home, and whilst volunteering seems like a viable option, this experience is also limited in tiny Gibraltar. However, as mentioned before, what students do this year will be what and how they make of it. Students can seize every opportunity they get which will allow them to develop as a person before taking the leap and attending university.
For students in Gibraltar who have decided to defer this year, there are many things you can do. For instance, you could volunteer at charity organisations like Cancer Relief or GibSams. Send your CVs to workplaces that you would love to work at. Consider opportunities abroad like Camp America, or live overseas with a host family in Paris and experience a new culture. The opportunities are endless!