Student living during a pandemic


By Manahil Butt

As students decide whether to move back home with their parents, or continue living independently during this pandemic, many students were not prepared for their new reality.

After living at home for four years while completing her Honours BA in Science at the University of Toronto Mississauga, Simran Matharu felt it was time to gain her independence. So, this fall, she moved to Peterborough, Ont., to start Trent University’s compressed nursing program, despite the pandemic and having mostly remote classes.

Although she knew living on her own for the first time during the pandemic would be a struggle, it’s been harder than she expected.

“The thing most students look forward to when they start at a new university is a social aspect, something I was looking forward to as well, which is now gone,” said Matharu.

Matharu knew her program was going to be difficult whether it was online or not. Living on her own and studying remotely while the campus is closed allowed her to create daily goals and schedules to keep her on track.

“It helps that I already have university experience, but if it wasn’t for COVID, I would be able to go out and meet new people, make new friends, do study dates and party,” said Matharu.

The Government of Canada said young Canadians play a critical role in reducing the spread of COVID-19. Young Canadians must avoid high-risk settings and activities. The overall idea for this pandemic is to remain home, isolate and continue following health and safety measures to protect yourself, friends, family and members of the community.

While some students jumped at the chance to move out regardless of the pandemic, others decided it was the right call to stay home.

Prabhjot Rajput, who recently graduated from Humber College, in Toronto, with a diploma in accounting, was planning on transferring to Brock University, in St. Catharines, Ont., to start a BA in accounting this fall when the pandemic hit and cancelled his plans.

“My parents were more towards me staying home because they started hearing the news and told me to chill,” said Rajput. “I decided I wanted to stay home because being away in a different city where it potentially could have cases, you never know what could happen.”

Many students, like Rajput, choose to live at home to save money during this time.

“We go out, we work, we spend our money, not thinking logically about how we can grow it or what we need to do in order to save for our future,” said Rajput. “Saving is the key here, and having the home experience of your own bed, leaving your PS4 on however long without worry about an electricity bill and eating mostly at home is comfort.”

Anne Wilson, a psychology professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, in Waterloo, Ont., expects there is a lot of variability in how students feel about moving back home with their parents.

“On one hand, it isolates them from friends, makes it harder to become involved in the community, limits their ability to develop independence and possibly creates difficulties if boundaries are not managed well,” said Wilson.

On the other hand, some students may still feel isolated even if they are on or near campus, said Wilson. In that case, being at home may offer social support and, in some cases, ease financial strain.

Students not prepared for remote learning and a global pandemic caused emotional distress and isolation.

“People often compare their current state to their aspirations or expected state,” said Wilson. “The disappointment and sense of loss would be heightened by these counterfactual comparisons — comparing to a hypothetical ‘might have been’ alternative.”