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30/07/2021

Lessons for the Covid era - Limerick students share their experiences

Lessons for the Covid era - Limerick students share their experiences

In a year that has seen classes move online and lessons go virtual - what impact has this really had on students?

The Limerick Leader's intern reporter Martin Mongan talks to four students on how 2020 has been for them.

Ciara Ferguson

Hometown: Spiddal

Age: 24

College: University of Limerick

Course: Journalism and New Media

What was your most memorable moment of 2020?
This was actually a really tough question but I suppose one of the most memorable moments for me of 2020 was honestly the excitement of returning to UL and seeing my coursemates. I had completed 6 months of co-op (work placement) in the Connacht Tribune here in Galway and then I had gone on my Erasmus to the University of Malta, so at this point I had been away from UL for a whole year. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved working in the Tribune as the people were lovely and the experience was amazing and I can honestly say I had the best time of my life in Malta, not only did I go over with three other people on my course but I also met loads of other people from UL over there and overall it was just an amazing experience but I did miss UL. I missed walking around the campus and seeing my friends and I just missed Limerick as a whole so for me a very big moment was just the excitement of returning to UL and knowing it was my final year.

What was the hardest part of lockdown 1 and 2?
I actually found the first lockdown much easier than the second one. I think with the first it was kind of in my head that, okay if we just stay inside now and do what we're supposed to and the world will go back to normal. I felt that even though it was new and scary and no one had ever really experienced anything like it and there was still a lot of hope for normality. I think it also helped that the weather was nice.

The hardest part of lockdown 1 for me would have to be finishing college. It was so chaotic and of course none of the lecturers were expecting this so it was kind of a rush then deciding how they were actually going to grade some of the modules and on top of that I was still trying to finish my FYP. Luckily I had done most of my interviews early on in the year but it was still very hard to finish it at home. It was also difficult in terms of guidance now this is absolutely no disrespect to any of the lecturers because I know they did their absolute best but I just don't think you can get as much help on a phone call or over zoom as you can in person so that was very difficult.

I found Lockdown 2 much harder because it was now in my head that lockdown is only a temporary solution and the minute we come back out of lockdown the cases are going to go up. It was also a very different lockdown for me because at this stage I had gotten a job in the deli my local shop so rather than going on runs and spending time with my family I was just going to work every day like normal and the only difference was I didn't have anything fun to look forward to on my days off! I couldn't see my friends, I couldn't go out for dinner or drinks and with the cold weather and work wearing me down. I lost interest in running so I found myself just going to work, showering, sleeping and eating and then sitting there thinking, wow is this actually my life!

What did you learn from 2020 that you wouldn't know now if Covid-19 hadn't struck?
Some people did online courses, some people wrote a book, some people started a business and good for them but for me I think I just really learnt to try and live life to the fullest and I know it sounds a bit cringey but I was the type of person- particularly in final year- I'd have a class from 10-11, I'd have work from 11-4, I would have a class from 5-6 and between all that and running around campus trying not to be late for things, by the end of the day I'd be so tired and I just wouldn't be bothered to do things, especially because I knew I'd have to do the same thing the next day and I missed out on loads of nights out and meals and going to the cinema and just visiting my friends because in my head I had all the time in the world.

Did your mental health suffer in 2020? To what extent?
Absolutely. Don't get me wrong, I know people are going through much worse - but I just feel like the class of 2020 were robbed. We were robbed of knowing our last class was our last class, we were robbed of saying goodbye, we were robbed of a graduation. I didn't even get a chance to say goodbye to the girls I lived with for four years.
I mean I was in the house in Limerick by myself because even though classes were no longer happening I still had my FYP to complete and I have a lot of siblings living at home so I stayed in Limerick for the peace and I just heard that there was a lockdown effective at midnight that night. I didn't know what to do so I rang my landlady and I rang my dad and by 10am the next morning I was on my way home to Galway, there was no time to say goodbye to anyone. I wasn't ready for college to be over - I didn't have any time to process it until I was stuck at home with my family 24/7. And I love my family but I never imagined at the age of 24 I'd be living with my parents, working in the local shop and getting my degree through the post. I mean I wanted to travel around Ireland. I wanted to travel to different countries and it's just very hard- it's very hard when there's nothing to look forward to- no holidays to book, no parties to look forward to, very little job opportunities and now emmigration isn't even really an option.

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Joanne Murray

Hometown: Ballinasloe, Co Galway

Age: 21

College: Limerick College of Art and Design

Course: Art and Design

What was your most memorable moment of 2020?
I don’t think I will ever forget listening to Leo Varadkar’s address to the nation, on the news in March 2020. The Taoiseach had my undivided attention. I remember the fear of not knowing what was going to happen in the coming weeks, as we had never experienced anything like this before.

What was the hardest part of lockdown 1 and 2?
In 2020 I started my first year of college, in Limerick School of Art and Design. With the postponement of the CAO results, I spent the summer months not knowing whether I would get to start college in September or not. When I did start college in October, I found it difficult to settle into the new college. Although I was fortunate to be able to attend college a few times a week, with the restrictions in place, I found it difficult to get to know the people in my year. Although crucial, social distancing and wearing face coverings made it a challenge to engage with my peers.

What did you learn from 2020 that you wouldn't know now if Covid-19 hadn't struck? 
I learned to live in the moment and take opportunities as they come. I realised that we don’t know what tomorrow will bring so we should take each day we are given and make the most of it.

Did your mental health suffer in 2020? To what extent?
I felt very lonely. Not being able to meet up with friends and socialise was a tough sacrifice.

What is your hope for 2021?
My biggest hope for 2021 is for it to be safe to travel to other countries again. I’d love to be able to visit some of my family abroad and enjoy summer 2021.

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Isobel Troy

Hometown: Rathmore, Co Kerry

Age:21

Course: Law and Accounting

College: University of Limerick

What was your most memorable moment of 2020?
There weren't many but just being able to enjoy some Covid friendly staycations over the summer with friends and family, being able to play football again when we could and play some competitive games.

What was the hardest part of lockdown 1 and 2?
The hardest part of lockdown number one was the uncertainty and the fear of catching the virus and potentially making someone else sick, not being able to see my friends or complete the college year, having to adapt to a new way of life with completing exams in isolation and the most contact that was got was through a screen.

What did you learn from 2020 that you wouldn't know now if Covid-19 hadn't struck?
I most definitely find that I have learned many things about myself and most notably would be to not be so hard on myself, that we are all here just trying to survive and do our best.

I am a friendly and outgoing person who struggled with being cooped up during lockdown one at home, I also had to improve my computer skills to complete my exams in May of 2020.

Did your mental health suffer in 2020? To what extent?
Covid has taught me to be more considerate for others and for sure the more vulnerable people in society, young and old, every little helps. I have never suffered with mental health issues before but certainly during Covid I found it was quite easy to feel down and guilty for having an unproductive day. I really missed my friends and I had many plans during the summer. I turned 21 in September and I wasn’t able to celebrate that properly with everyone that I wanted to.
One thing that I have learned and has been so effective for me is trying to always think positively. There is not one thing positive going to arise from thinking negatively in times like these that will only render yourself in being down, it is so important to remind yourself that this is not forever and everyday is a step closer to that day.

What is your hope for 2021?
It is hard to not get carried away with hopes and dreams for 2021 while we still live aggressively with the virus but I would like to enjoy the summer with my friends including some travelling and catching up from plans in 2020. My academic placement is in Dublin and I would like to make the best out of my time there. I hope that the virus begins to subside and we can begin to live our lives as we once knew.

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Matthew Hayes

Hometown: Raheen, Limerick
Age: 20
College: University of Limerick
Course title: Journalism and New Media w/ Law Major

What was your most memorable moment of 2020?
The most memorable moment of the year for me is moving out with my friends for the summer. We moved shortly after the end of the first lockdown so it was definitely needed. After spending so long couped up with our families, I think we all needed a break and to spend as much time as possible with friends. It was a bit weird at first because we were there for a few weeks before restrictions properly began to ease so we didn't really get the full benefit of living in Castletroy until a month in! It was my first time living away from home, I made great memories and got to meet a lot of amazing new people so it's definitely an experience I'll be grateful for the rest of my life.

What was the hardest part of lockdown 1 and 2?
Compromising. I think everyone would agree that it was very hard to stay civil with those you quarantined with. Small things that usually didn't matter suddenly became the beginning of a huge argument. When I was feeling frustrated or fed up with lockdown, it was very difficult to take a step back and realise everyone else was in the exact same position because, at the end of the day, your own problems always seem bigger than everyone else's. I ended up in a situation where I just did my own thing and never really engaged in family activities - I refused to compromise because I was feeling down so I did what I wanted to do. I regret that.

What did you learn from 2020 that you wouldn't know now if Covid-19 hadn't struck? 
It's hard to answer this without being very critical of a lot of people! All I'll say is take care of yourself. Put yourself and your family first and do whatever you need to do to keep them safe and healthy, because others won't do it for you. Wash your hands, wear a mask and keep your distance. Personally, I learned a lot about myself when I lived away from home for three months but I don't think any of that is due to the Covid situation. I think I learned third level education isn't for me. Through all of this, I have ended up leaving college and I think it's the best thing that could have happened this year. Finding a positive from this year could often be like looking for a needle in a haystack but that is a huge thing in my life that I'm happy with. I'm now working in a job I love without the stress of exams or deadlines that I don't have the motivation to work for.

Did your mental health suffer in 2020? To what extent?
I definitely struggled with my mental health this year, but I think anyone who says no isn't being completely honest.

What is your hope for 2021?
Resumption of normality! It's probably a hope that won't be realised but I suppose taking some steps towards things being normal again. I do know that it will be a very new normal, and we probably won't ever be back in the world we left in 2019 but I don't want to be jumping in and out of lockdowns for another 12 months. Hopefully the vaccine will help move the whole process along but all I want is to be able to see my friends again without feeling guilty, be able to chat to someone at work without struggling to hear what they're saying through the mask two metres away, and to feel safe on a bus again!

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