‘We came all this way to start a new life’: the misery of Glasgow’s lockdown freshers

Wrooster Theo Lockett examined sure for coronavirus on Thursday, he was once the primary of his 10 flatmates to take action. Inside 24 hours, 4 extra had reported sure effects amid a swiftly expanding outbreak in College of Glasgow pupil lodging.

“Bodily I believe drained and tired, I’ve were given a sore throat and I will’t style,” says 19-year-old Lockett, who moved to Glasgow two weeks in the past from York. “Emotionally it’s depressing; you’ll be able to’t meet new other folks, you’ll be able to’t move to campus, you’ll be able to’t move house. It feels such as you’ve come all this approach to get started a brand new existence and also you’ve ended up locked in a area for 2 weeks.”

Lockett and his flatmates are a few of loads of first years keeping apart in Murano Side road Scholar Village, the college’s greatest halls of place of dwelling which, along within reach Cairncross Area, is on the centre of the outbreak. Around the town, hundreds extra new arrivals are limited by means of steering forbidding scholars from socialising past their family staff. By way of Friday, the college stated there have been 172 sure instances inside its flats and 600 scholars self-isolating – with numbers anticipated to upward push as trying out will increase.

On Saturday Glasgow College announced on Twitter it was once providing a month’s hire rebate and £50 credit score to all scholars in its flats, whether they have been self-isolating.

Thomas Quinn, who has persistent bronchitis and is keeping apart in Queen Margaret flats after a flatmate examined sure, moved from the Heart East to review politics and philosophy. “My female friend additionally got here from the Heart East to visit Edinburgh and my imaginative and prescient was once to make a number of buddies in Glasgow and he or she’d make a number of buddies in Edinburgh, and we’d move to a lot of these events and eating places in combination,” says Quinn, 18.

Theo Lockett tested positive for the coronavirus shortly after moving to student accommodation in Glasgow’s Murano Street halls.
Theo Lockett examined sure for the coronavirus in a while after transferring to pupil lodging in Glasgow’s Murano Side road halls. : Katherine Anne Rose/The Observer

“For those who’d informed me a yr in the past that freshers’ week would encompass assembly roughly 4 other folks I’d were beautiful shocked.”

Whilst the college has related the outbreak to social job all the way through the primary weekend of freshers’ week, many scholars have expressed frustration at being blamed for socialising after being inspired to bodily attend campus.

“They’ve necessarily picked up a couple of thousand 17- and 18-year-olds, caught all of them in combination clear of their oldsters for the primary time, after which close their eyes and pretended they didn’t know what was once going to occur,” says Quinn.

“If I hadn’t paid the deposit and issues had gotten to this degree, I wouldn’t be right here,” consents Lockett. “It’s been tricky paying such a lot cash simply to take a seat in a mattress that’s relatively extra uncomfortable than the only I’ve at house, in a room that’s relatively less warm than the only I’ve at house.”

Scottish scholars don’t pay tuition charges however scholars from the remainder of the United Kingdom, like Lockett, pay £nine,250. Hire at Murano Side road prices £126.77 every week on best of a non-refundable £600 deposit, which was once paid sooner than some college departments moved all their instructing online-only.

That is intended to be a large yr for us. Nevertheless it seems like the whole lot that can have long past mistaken has long past mistaken

Leslie, pupil

A Glasgow College spokesperson added that the college was once running to verify trying out was once readily to be had throughout all its flats and would track the location intently to verify adherence to the socialising and isolation laws. A cellular trying out unit has additionally been established on the Murano Side road flats.

“We’ve got made transparent to scholars that they should now not socialise with others [beyond] their families. We’ve got additionally strongly instructed them to keep away from hospitality venues reminiscent of bars over the weekend. The scholar unions on campus will stay closed,” the spokesperson added.

There was a spate of campus outbreaks throughout the United Kingdom as scholars have returned. No less than 23 universities have reported outbreaks, a bunch this is more likely to upward push as extra scholars arrive. The Nationwide Union of Scholars (NUS) accused the federal government and college vice chancellors of “selling students a lie” about how safe it would be to return to campuses for face-to-face teaching.

NUS president Larissa Kennedy told the Observer that universities have been allowed to prioritise their income over the safety of students, workers and local communities.

“We can all see that this is a completely unsafe situation,” she said. “Universities were more concerned about tuition fee income and the government more concerned with making sure that the rental sector stays afloat, than making sure that safety was the priority.”

Students are in an impossible situation, she added. They “have done what they’ve been told [and returned to university] – but they’ve been sold a lie. The government is gambling with students’ lives.”

The NUS is calling on universities to invest urgently in digital infrastructure, so that students can choose to learn off-campus. It also wants the government to fill any funding gaps universities will face if they send students home.

“If universities were fully funded, I have no doubt we’d be in a completely different situation. If we’re going to see universities act in the interest of student and community safety, the government needs to underwrite this with a real sense of urgency.”

If university outbreaks continue and students are forced to self-isolate repeatedly, she said she would not be surprised if students demanded tuition fee refunds later in the year.

Thomas Quinn is isolating at Queen Margaret residences.
Thomas Quinn is isolating at Queen Margaret residences. Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose/The Observer

During her daily briefing on Friday, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon spoke directly to students, telling them “you don’t deserve to be facing this and it’s not your fault,” before going on to confirm a ban on students in Scotland visiting pubs, restaurants and cafes this weekend.

The guidance was met with confusion by students – many of whom work in the hospitality industry – and businesses in Glasgow.

Debbie Shields, the president of Scottish Women in Business, which represents a number of hospitality business owners, says members have already been frustrated by localised lockdowns in Glasgow on top of national restrictions.

“They realise we need to do something and that health is obviously as important as the economy,” said Shields. “But the messages coming from government have been so confusing and really difficult for anyone to wade through. There were students [on Thursday] hearing that new guidance and not knowing whether they could go into work this weekend.”

For some, the toll on students’ mental health from limited social contact while being away from home is a scarier prospect than being infected with coronavirus.

Becca Leslie, who also lives in Murano Street where residents are unable to individually control the heating in their bedrooms or to open their windows beyond a safety latch, says the situation has been “very overwhelming and people are feeling the mental effects”.

And, she points out, it comes on top of an already difficult summer for students who were also at the centre of last month’s exam results U-turns across the UK.

“This is meant to be a massive year for us; we’re 18 and our lives are just beginning,” says Leslie, who moved from Aberdeen to study film and television with German and French. “But it feels like everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong.”

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