When lockdown struck last March, many students starting University were faced with a completely new experience, and for some, the prospect of being far from family and loved ones in another country.
Merlin, a M.Sc undergrad in Data Science, started his one year full time course at the University of Bristol in September 2020. With the prospect of face-to-face teaching, getting to know a new city and making new friends the country was suddenly plummeted into a lockdown changing his whole experience completely.
When lockdown was announced and my studies were moved completely online I was so bummed. Choosing accommodation close to the UoB meant I had wanted to be close to everything both the University and city could offer and now I was faced with spending all of my time in my apartment.
Fortunately, I had everything I needed to study from home and the room was big enough for me to not feel wedged in. I also felt I had the support I needed from the landlady and she always gave me the feeling that she would be there if needs be (thanks, Sino!).
It did feel strange being in another country just so I could sit in my room in-front of my computer and follow instructions via Teams. However, the major benefit of online teaching is that the lecturers record and upload their lectures, so you can study at your own pace or revisit older recordings when needed. The downsides were keeping my productivity levels up when you are in the same place all day and night.
I would say, even given the circumstances, I always felt mentally healthy and I rarely had the feeling of being alone or left out. I made friends with my neighbour across the hall, which made life a lot more enjoyable. We binge-watched Parks and Rec, cooked together and explored the city by foot as much as we could. I also visited Germany for Christmas, and now Easter as well, and had a great time with my family and friends.
Outside of University hours, I went for a lot of walks with my English friends, played video games with my friends back home, tried to improve my cooking and did some home exercises. Of course, there was the occasional socially distanced Zoom beer, which cannot live up to the real thing, but was far more entertaining than I first assumed!
If it were not for the people I made friends with in the first two weeks I spent here before lockdown, I may as well have stayed in Germany. But as a software engineer, sitting in front of the computer all day was nothing new for me, yet I really craved more social interaction and being at University.
On a positive note, the one thing that I liked about this whole situation is the change in the job market, as I really enjoy working from home. My work in Germany completely switched to home office, with the possibility to go into the office if needed, which is awesome.
All this aside, I am looking forward to restrictions easing further and being able to meet my friends for a cold pint later this year!