by Marie Vandenhirtz
Copenhagen. No present classes, no physical interaction and nearly no social engagement even in their free time for almost a year. The life of students has been shifted to being online, which they now use as an advantage to make people aware of their situation.
“Where is the talk about lost professionality? Why are we the last ones opening up again?” Being a student during times of a pandemic is hard, which Jakob Skyggebjerg Kjær states openly in a Facebook Post. Within 1.044 words the geology student from the university of Copenhagen makes his frustration clear.
Many other students find themselves in the same situation as the comment section of his post shows. “Send this article out to the daily newspapers! It’s an important message!” or “I have the same experience about the lost professionality. Thank you for putting it into words.”
Frustration among the students
Silke Birkenborg Andersen was one of those students. She studies history in her first year. “I’m frustrated. I don’t feel like I’m getting the same education as I’m supposed to do.”, Andersen states. But not only their lives at Uni have changed. Sophie Winther, a close friend of hers and a student of law says: “There are people that would say – you have free time, you can go out with your friends – but we can’t really be with our friends because that’s irresponsible.”
The current restrictions impose a limit to five people that are allowed to meet – in- as well as outside until the 21st March. From then on ten people will be allowed to meet. In higher education institutes, there is no physical attendance allowed. Even exams are taken online. And libraries are closed. Except for those who borrow materials.
Mental stress was expected early on
Already in June 2020, the faculty of health and medical science in Copenhagen warned of a negative impact on student’s mental health due to the pandemic. The basis of this claim was a range of studies that stated, “the pandemic could trigger poorer quality of sleep, anxiety, depression and mental stress”.
A reason for that can be found in Denmark’s tradition in reducing the study environment. Student cafes and Friday bars are part of a student’s daily life. There is even an approach that “the more beers a student drank, the more he was part of the community and the better he got though his studies.” Closed bars or restaurants and the restrictions on meeting people make it impossible to find such a balance.
Socializing online can help
Dr. Debra Quackenbush is a psychologist at The Little White House in Copenhagen. She claims that students are not directly a more vulnerable group to be facing mental health issues during the pandemic.
It is more about the development they are going through: “At the age of 17, 18, 19, you are normally going through a social discovery, you learn a lot about yourself and figure yourself out.” Students at that age might consequence not developing independent skills and need to work a little harder to overcome social anxiety.
To make it easier during this time she suggests getting creative online. Social engagement through movie groups for example. Creating opportunities to interact.
Openings or new way of educating needed
According to the ministry of higher education and science in Denmark, the current restrictions are ending on April the 5th. In very few cases there can be exemptions such as laboratory, clinical and workshop teaching.
Sophie Winther and Silke Birkenborg Andersen hope that they will be able to go to Uni very soon. But also, they wish for a different way of thinking. “New ways of educating then just online – because that doesn’t work.”, Silke says. Or giving some extra lessons to students and having classes in smaller groups.