Student Life

Higher education: Could the pandemic change views on the university route?

By Holly Briant

Former psychology student, Lewis Meadows decided to leave university just as the pandemic began last March when online learning became the normal for most.
Former student, Lewis Meadows in California for Twitchcon, 2019

Former psychology student, Lewis Meadows, decided to leave university just as the pandemic began last March when online learning became the normal for most.

The 19-year-old from Bristol saw that he didn’t enjoy the university environment and found it difficult to settle despite spending many years at school, working towards this part of his life.

Instead of Zoom classes, the pandemic gave Lewis a chance to explore what he really wanted to do in life and found his place within the Twitch and YouTube community. He feels that if more routes were offered to young people, especially now during the pandemic, there wouldn’t be so much pressure to go to higher education.

‘I saw it as the only way to go because that’s the next logical step in life’

Lewis was first introduced to the idea of going to university at the age of thirteen after participating in various activities with South Bristol Youth, an organisation that increases university applications in disadvantaged areas.

He said: “I was introduced to the idea of university so early on; I saw it as the only way to go because that’s the next logical step.

“I felt so much pressure to go because that’s just what I thought people do after school”

Even though most of his school life was spent working towards a place at university, he found that university was nothing like the information he was given.

He said: “I was informed the cost of university, clubs and societies but I was never even taught that there was an interest on your student loan

“The information felt very selective and bias and in favour of going to university rather then allowing me to make my own informed choice.”

After spending several months at university, Lewis lost motivation when he started to dislike the whole experience. His mental health was affected significantly.

He said: “I felt like I was throwing away my future, if I were to leave, and that there would be no other route to become successful in life.

“I found that I wouldn’t really go anywhere and there would be times where I wouldn’t eat for days because I felt so terrible and I ended up losing a lot of weight and led me to becoming isolated from my family and friends.

“I felt trapped because I felt like this was where I was supposed to be, and I can’t just throw my future away.”

‘You need to put your interests first and be honest with yourself’

Picture: Pixbay

Since the pandemic began, there has been a vast change to university curriculums across the globe as well as the lives of students been turned upside down.

Many petitions and protests have been conducted by students across the country for compensation, refunds and No-Detriment Policies in order to allow them to succeed and feel that they are getting as much of the university experience as possible.

There has also been a concern in student mental well-being since the start of the academic year with 63% of students saying theirs had significantly worsened according to the ONS (Office of National Statistics) and 37% being very dissatisfied with their academic experience.

Despite Lewis not being at the centre of university life in the pandemic, he believed that students have been put at a disadvantage since everything began back in March 2020.

He said: “I think everyone needs to be honest about the experience and put the well-being of others first.

“I think being transparent about university life, whether there’s a pandemic or not, is so important and giving people a variety of choices rather then just higher education would ease the pressure that most young people find they have.”

Lewis now has growing Twitch and YouTube channels where he has not only found his newfound passion, but an ever-growing community full of people that are like family and new sets of skills that always developing.

Lewis at Twitchcon, 2019, with friends he originally met online

He said: “It wasn’t until 2017 when I really started using Twitch which I’ve found was best for me because I get to talk to people in real time and make genuine connections with other people.

“I only recently started to realise the potential the internet can really have to make a mark on people’s lives despite whatever situation they may be in with the real world. Especially with everything going on now.”

This time spent during the pandemic has allowed many to revaluate their options, whether it be a career change or wanting to go onto higher education. With the UK now having a fast rolling vaccine programme and the infection rate continuing to descend, there is still hope for new and returning students to get the experience they want for when the new academic year comes around in September.

Categories: Student Life

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