Studying at university is already an incredibly challenging experience. It only gets harder when you do it while living away from the comforts of home. Then imagine undertaking your degree during a global pandemic which brings to a halt society around you. This one takes the cake.
For countless first-years living at Monash, 2020 was supposed to be their year to start one of the biggest adventures of their life. They were to fulfil this rite of passage in what should have been a year filled with new friends, memories, and personal growth.
Our first-year living on campus at Monash was an incredible experience. We both had the opportunity to get entrenched in the fun of orientation week, experience true independence, and make the foundations for life-long friendships. It was the best year of our lives.
However, the restrictions brought on by COVID-19, albeit for safety, meant that for many this experience could not be replicated. For first-year Manouk Piek, a domestic student who moved into Residential Village, her experience was far from ours.
“I attended two lectures in my whole first-year of university. The year I was supposed to make lifelong friends and a million memories. I lived on res for one anxiety-filled month. Without orientation, almost every moment on res was overwhelming. I felt helpless. However, I quickly found people who were equally as lost as me, and these people became my friends. We are still in contact today and it saddens me that we missed out on a year of friendship and growth together. This year has been unprecedented, we know. But it was meant to be the best year of our lives.”
The pandemic has been an immensely trying time for everyone studying at university. However, first-year residents have arguably been one of the hardest hit demographics. For a point of reference in contrasting Manouk’s experience with our own, here is this brief comparison.
On 11 March 2019, we were excited to attend a legendary Nott night. On 11 March 2020, a global pandemic was declared. Five days later (on 16 March 2019), our third Dooley’s night was ahead. On this day in 2020, Daniel Andrews declared a state of emergency in Victoria.
As you can see, the comparison is quite drastic. First-year residents have been deprived of all the experiences we took for granted: attending O-Week; cooking with friends; getting lost in the Menzies; eating Neptune’s chips; city trips; and countless balls.
Additionally, for international students such as first-year Nikita Sharma living in ‘Urban Community’, the distance from home proved to be an extra challenge. With international travel ground to a halt, they are unable to go see family during the break.
“Being an international student, I had some great expectations for my Uni life. Having grown up in a somewhat strict household, I was very much grounded and rooted to the rules set by my family. I wanted to take this opportunity to get a taste of variety and freedom! The lockdown in Melbourne has been very hard and makes me question if shifting continents was the right choice for me.”
As emphasised by Nikita, being a first-year ressie is synonymous with growth and self-expression, an opportunity to flourish in an environment which is supportive and welcoming.
Living on campus at Monash is more than just a place to stay, it’s a family, as experienced by Jacqui Greer, a first-year domestic student.
“Living on campus at Monash, I have never felt more at home. It was really sad having to leave so early, as the year would have been filled with more amazing moments. I can’t wait to be back next year.”
First-year residents should know that they are not alone. There are people who understand the experience they are living through and the sense of disappointment they feel. It’s not selfish or unreasonable to grieve the loss of what could have been.
With countless moments of pure joy and happiness associated with our time living at Monash, we could not imagine never getting to live our first-year experiences. We cannot stress how integral it is for Monash to ensure the pandemic generation of residents are not forgotten, and that they have their rightful opportunity to be true first-year ressies.