Lonely halls reflect how students feel about their first year of university

By Molly Talbot

Students all over the United Kingdom have had what can certainly be called a once-in-a-lifetime experience when it comes to their lives at university.

But, in their minds, their Covid lockdown experience has not particularly been a good thing, especially for those in their first year at university.

Alone: Jessica Moss, 19, studying alone in her kitchen, normally used by 20 people.

Thousands of students flooded to student accommodation blocks all over the country last September to begin their new lives, including at De Montfort University in Leicester.

As the pandemic spread its autumnal grip on the nation, however, with heavy restrictions and then a second lockdown, the feelings of being lonely, empty, and of being entrapped became more prominent for students living away from home in a city they did not really know.

One accommodation block which has had students living within its facilities since September is Applegate Place run by Hello Student in Leicester.

Half-empty: Applegate Place, run by Hello Student, a two-minute walk from the city centre

The halls of Applegate Place were full at the start of the academic year but have dwindled down to a mere few students on each floor, following the Christmas holiday and the national lockdown that came with the new year.

Since Christmas, students’ learning has all been online.

Jessica Moss, a first-year student at De Montfort University, who lives in Applegate, said: “I am sick of looking at the same four walls each day, there’s nothing to do.”

Many university students felt they had little choice about returning after Christmas from family homes to their university accommodation, especially Applegate, because it was unclear for a long time whether there would be any kind of refund on rent.

Jessica added: “I felt I had to come back because of how much I pay for rent, but I have never felt so lonely in my life.”

The loneliness of university accommodation during the coronavirus restrictions comes hand in hand with students struggling to maintain their mental health, a problem that has become a pandemic in itself.

If you or anyone you know are struggling with mental health, suport workers urge you not to feel embarrassed to reach out. You can contact the Samaritans 24-hour by phoning 116 123 or emailing  jo@samaritans.org.