09 September 2020
New academic year, new challenges
Rev Delyth Liddell,
Coordinating Chaplain at Cardiff University
Universities are preparing to receive the new intake of students in unprecedented circumstances this autumn. While students will be arriving to their new towns and cities and getting to know their fellow housemates, social distancing will continue to be important and the pubs and clubs, and student societies - all opportunities for getting to know fellow students - will look very different this year. Most universities will be using a blended learning system, with lectures online, zoom meetings with fellow students and just a few face-to-face tutor groups set up, in order to minimise the chances of outbreaks of Covid-19 in university settings. University will be a very different experience for the 2020 Fresher and there will inevitably be disappointment and grief over the loss of what was expected from their first year at university.
Chaplaincies and universities are working hard to ensure that the university experience is still a good one for students and are looking to provide opportunities for community, to enable students to connect with like-minded folks and to be supported in these strange times. There will be plenty of online events for students to get to know their fellow course mates and tutors, freshers fairs will largely be online and students will be able to engage in events from the comfort of their own room. It will be important for students to engage with the online enrolment and opportunities to gather information about their new learning environment as they start out on this new phase of their academic career. This will help students to feel more confident that they know who to contact to ask a question or get specific support because they will know the services that are available from their university.
At Cardiff University Chaplaincy, we will continue hosting our regular worship opportunities (in the chapel while we can and also streaming services to our social media), along with our socials and chaplaincy talks which will all happen via zoom. We will continue our drop-in sessions, offering a socially distanced face-to-face chat, and hope that students looking for a chance to alleviate loneliness and isolation will find their way to us. We are also starting a Chaplaincy ‘Walk and Talk’ with a stroll around Bute Park in Cardiff, and an opportunity to chat with others for half and hour or so while walking my dogs (Dave, an 8 year old Beagle and Ianto, a puppy Cocker Spaniel). Pet therapy can be really good for students who are missing home and I hope that the addition of the puppy will be an added attraction and distraction!
University is a chance for young people to explore more about themselves and to continue to discover who God has created them to be. That needn’t change because of the circumstances we now find ourselves in. University is, of course, about learning more about their chosen subject, but it can also be an opportunity to grow in spirituality and faith in God. Engaging with the community of faith, whether that be their fellow Christian students, the chaplaincy or a local church, can enrich the university experience and ensure that it is a very rewarding and transforming one.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2