Latest Storrows - College Advice Blog College & Covid-19: Advice on the Essentials The current Coronavirus Pandemic has completely changed the way we live for the next few months, and of course affects how we are learning in college. At this stage, the majority of colleges have confirmed that face-to-face learning will not be going ahead for the remainder of the semester and examinations will be taking place through alternative formats, depending on your course and college. This is a very challenging time for students for a variety of answers, and unfortunately as students ourselves we don’t know all the answers, even our lecturers and college officials don’t! However, from personal experience and from advice being put out by the USI, various Students Unions and the colleges themselves, we have been able to put together this guide for some of the issues you may be facing!I think it’s important that we acknowledge that students are facing massive challenges at this time, some more than others depending on their circumstances. Students who have poured huge amounts of time and money into degrees over the last few years now risk having those degrees compromised due to situations that are outside of their control. The most important thing we can do for everyone, be it college students, secondary school students, stay-at-home parents, people working from home, frontline workers, people who have to cocoon or self-isolate or anyone else, is show extra kindness and understanding in these challenging times, and never try to belittle the challenges they are facing.1. Studying RemotelyFirstly, it is so important to remember that studying remotely is extremely difficult for some students. They may be sharing a computer or study space, living in a crowded or noisy home, or have unreliable internet connection. That’s not even taking into account already existing learning difficulties or other challenges that will only be further exasperated by the situation! If you have any difficulties concentrating or accessing material, try to get in contact with lecturers, a course co-ordinator, a class rep or an SU officer and explain your situation. Aside from this, try your best to keep up with your course content. If possible, keep to your normal college timetable as best you can. This way you won’t end up neglecting a certain module or subject! Don’t let lectures build up, and continue to take notes as normal. If lecturers are not uploading the same quality of material or not uploading any at all, try to contact them directly, or through your class rep. Continuous assessment elements will now be more important than ever, so try to keep track of them. Make a list in your phone or a diary of everything that’s due and when it’s due, and check them off when they’re submitted. Check Moodle, Blackboard or whatever your online platform is as often as possible and keep notifications on so you can see what your lecturers are saying. It can be easy to miss things on these websites, so try to check in with other people in your class to make sure you’re all keeping up with everything!Because there is so much to talk about, we will have a separate post for study/work from home tips coming up!2. AccomodationThis is a very important and urgent issue for students, and unfortunately there is very little clear guidance on what to do. The major of students in campus accommodation were asked to move out before the current restrictions were put in place, and some were refunded their rent for the remainder of the year. If you are living on campus or in private student accommodation blocks (not house-shares/rented student houses ect) then the owners of your accommodation should be in contact with you, whether that’s the college or a private owner. If you weren’t refunded and feel you deserve to be, you should try to make this known to your Student’s Union. If you are in a student house or digs/owner-occupied accommodation your situation is quite different. Students in digs or owner-occupied houses unfortunately have no statutory rights and as it stands your digs owners have the right to continue to collect rent, unless you signed a contract that contains a clause that you don’t have to. Likewise, student houses are rented on the basis that you are living in the house for the time period, not studying in it, so you may be obliged to continue paying rent. Now, many landlords and home owners will be understanding and not charge rent, however they are not legally obliged to do this. However, I would definitely advise contacting them and asking, even if they do not contact you asking for rent, as you don’t want to be footed with a massive rental bill at the end of the semester. At the moment, as only essential journeys are allowed to be taken, you will not be able to collect your things from your accommodation if you haven’t fully moved out as it is not considered an essential journey (the same goes for emptying on-campus lockers etc). However, as soon as the current restrictions are lifted, I would try to move your things out as soon as it is possible and safe, to help in your argument that you do not need to be paying rent. You can also find more advice on accommodation on threshold.ie or on nidirect.gov.uk or on their social media pages. 3. Frontline WorkersWith the nature of the jobs frontline workers are being required to do, a lot of students have seen their part-time job become full-time, front line work while still being expected to keep up with their studies. If this is you or someone you know, the first thing you need to remember is that what you are doing is vital to keep this country running and keeping people safe and healthy! You should be very proud of yourself! This is obviously impacting on your studies and you can’t be expected to achieve your normal potential. As with all the other issues with studying from home, get in contact with all of your lecturers and tutors and let them know your situation. You will more than likely have to continue with the same work as everyone else, but you may be given extensions or even a capped grade. If you feel you are being treated unfairly, go straight to your SU officers, in particular your Education Officer. It is also really important at this time to look after your mental health and give yourself a break. This is a very intense time to be working in a shop, pharmacy, hospital, nursing home, or wherever else you might be. Get some rest and look after yourself!4. Mental Health & WellbeingIt’s important for all of us to stay connected and look after ourselves during this time. Keep in contact with your friends and remember to be kind! Different people will be struggling with different issues, and even different subjects and modules will be more or less suitable for online learning – for example my biology material is still quite easy to understand while my maths is a nightmare! Be kind to each other and try to help and support each other. Try to keep up your hobbies in some way – even if you normally play a sport now could be a good time to work on some of the finer skills like your first touch or ball control depending on your sport. This is a great time to get into crafts too! Some of your normal college societies might be doing online meet ups or activities, so keep an eye on them too! In terms of guiding, this is a great time to sew some badges onto your campfire blanket, research and try out new games and activities for future meetings or get involved with CGI Page Turners, our new book club which can be found on Facebook. Lots of companies are also holding virtual meetings, so you can also stay in touch there! 5. College Supports and ServicesThis varies college to college, but in general student supports are remaining open and are operating over the phone or online. Your Student’s Union and college information pages should have information on this. Don’t be afraid to contact them! Program advisory in particular could be a big one as the year ends and students are considering subject choice or career options. The campus doctor may also be available over the phone. People are still getting sick with things other than Covid-19 and it's important that if you are ill in any way you contact a Doctor as you would at any other time. They can also provide Doctor’s notes if you are ill or even just need to self-isolate as a precaution which you should forward on to your lecturers. Don’t continue to work when you are too ill just because you are at home! Counselling services also remain open, both in college and outside of college. This is an incredibly difficult time for anyone already suffering from a mental health issue. Unfortunately, many people are now literally trapped at home by law in abusive or toxic households. If this affects you or someone you know, try to get in touch with a counselling service, whether it be an on-campus one or Pieta House (1800247247) or the Samaritans (116123), or Lifeline in Northern Ireland (0808 808 8000). 6. Being Laid-OffPlenty of students have either been laid off (temporarily or permanently) from part-time work, or had their hours reduced. If this has happened to you, visit citizeninformation.ie or nidirect.gov.uk to find the most suitable information for your situation. In the Republic of Ireland there is an emergency Pandemic Unemployment payment. This payment is not means tested for the first six weeks as there is simply not time to means test all the applications, so regardless of the situation of the rest of your family, if you lost income because of coronavirus you should apply. Saying that, remember that this payment is help for people who lost their money, so don’t abuse the system and claim payment when you did not lose any money. Also this payment does not apply if your income was not declared, e.g. babysitting.So that’s it for today, hopefully you’ve been able to find something helpful! We’ll be back in a few days with a more light-hearted work/study from home blog. The most important thing to take from this blog is to keep letting your college know about the issues you are facing. From just talking to my friends both from home and college, it’s clear that many of us don’t feel we’re receiving the same level of education online as we would in college, and that nearly every student (and everyone else!) is facing some sort of challenge, whether it be worry for parents working on the frontline, noisy houses, bad internet connection, tensions within families and more. The more we voice our problems to our colleges the more they will have to be understanding about our situation and the more leniency and changes will have to be made! Remember, we have put time, money and effort into getting to this point in our education and we deserve our results to be a reflection of that, especially students in final year. If you’re having any issues or anything you’d like to talk about please comment down below! Just remember that it’s so important to be kind and understanding of everyone in this time.