'We are just getting on with it, but it’s not ideal': UCC student describes how college life has been turned upside down

'We are just getting on with it, but it’s not ideal': UCC student describes how college life has been turned upside down

"Sharing a study is grand, but I am dreading study season because it is very distracting." 

A MATURE student in UCC has said college is a lot more difficult since going online.

Currently in her second year of law, Molly Knightly, from Sneem in Kerry has been living in Cork since she moved across the border at the age of 19 to do a PLC course in the Rebel County.

However, since March, which was the last semester of her first year in University, Molly has been completing her course work from her study in the family home in Kerry.

Since September, Molly has been sharing the home office with her sister Sadie, who has started her first year at Cork Institute of Technology, where she is studying Social Care.

Molly said there are some difficulties with the set-up.

“Sharing a study is grand, but I am dreading study season because it is very distracting.

“We are just getting on with it, but it’s not ideal to be sharing a space.”

The law student said the family dog, 11-year-old chocolate brown springer spaniel Labrador Blake likes to hang out in the study with them and he is also a big distraction.

“He is very needy, he sleeps in the study. He has a bed in there and he is very distracting. He loves attention and he licks his paws all the time, it’s very annoying.”

The pair are trying to make the best of the situation and Sadie is making friends online through group chats and zoom calls.

“It’s a little easier in CIT as class sizes were smaller but a lot of people don’t attend the zooms, it is just not the same.”

Chatting about her own Fresher experience, Molly said it had been very positive.

“First year was good, it was very social, I got to meet loads of people. We had different meetups and things organised for the course.

“The reps went out of their way to get you to meet everyone, there were lots of activities and events, but it was a hard course so I wasn’t going crazy.

“I don’t know how the younger students went hell for leather, there was so much reading to do!”

Molly said she made loads of friends and took part in lots of activities, but she regretted not getting more involved in societies, now that they are all online.

“I signed up to things, but didn’t attend, I wish I had been more involved,” she explained.

In terms of lectures, Molly said this semester is harder than the last, as the online aspect was more permanent now.

“With online classes, it’s really difficult to see the serious side of college. You are just at your laptop all day.”

Molly also said the workload this semester is extremely intense.

“I have assignments all the time. I am inundated. A lot of lecturers don’t want to do online exams, so there is a lot of 100% continuous assessments to avoid end of year tests.”

The lack of social engagement is another hurdle for Molly and Sadie to tackle.

“It’s much harder now that every social interaction is online. It is harder to take it seriously.

“On one hand you are overwhelmed with assignments, there is so much reading, there is not enough time in the day and normally you would be meeting friends for a coffee, or food or at the library and you can’t do that now.”

First year very different this year 

Molly said she really felt for this year’s Freshers.

“It is completely different. The course set up zoom social events to meet friends, but it’s not the same. College is tougher, it’s all the hard aspects and no socialising.”

The young college students are also at home with their parents, when they would normally be living among their peers.

“Our parents like having us around, but they joke with us, saying they are expecting big Christmas presents and jokingly ask for rent. It’s very intense for the whole family, but we are making the best of it.”

Living in Sneem village, Molly said it was a shock to the system as a lot of her friends had emigrated or were living in Cork.

“I had done a PLC already and a lot of my friends were in Cork now. When the college closed in Cork, we were only halfway through the year. I was still going to the library but was half afraid of being on campus.”

Molly said the first lockdown had happened very quickly and everything had been up in a heap.

“I didn’t realise we would be at home for the rest of the year. It happened really fast. I had moved some stuff to Kerry but had some stuff in Cork. Our landlord didn’t charge us for April and took our deposit for May.”

Molly said she found it hard to study from home.

“Towards the end of the semester when the college closed and it took some adjusting to. I think everyone took a week to just watch Netflix.”

Thankfully Molly managed to pass her exams from home and had no major technical difficulties.

“It was weird doing the exams online. I had to ask my parents not to come in at certain times because of the noise when I was trying to concentrate.”

Molly also said that doing the exams online, on a laptop instead of with a pen and paper seemed very strange.

“I was anxious about the results. I didn’t know how it was going to go, thankfully I passed everything.”

Over the summer, Molly worked in the family business. She said she missed her friends and her boyfriend Michael who lives in West Cork.

“It’s very easy to forget you have loads of friends in college because you don’t see them. There are so many things I used to do in Cork, I mostly interact with friends on social media at the moment.”

The second lockdown has definitely been tougher, according to Molly.

“It’s difficult now because it’s winter and it’s more long-term. I wouldn’t be a huge fan of Christmas, but I will miss the social gatherings and get-togethers.”

Looking ahead, Molly said she was enthusiastic about a vaccine.

“It’s hopeful news and very exciting, I would take it to get part of my old life back.”

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