This post was originally published on 5th February 2021.
In any normal year at the University of East Anglia, societies are a huge part of student life, offering pub crawls, quiz nights, exercise, and, most importantly, friendship. However, with Covid-19 forcing societies online, students have described ‘disappointment’ and feelings of isolation as a result.
Holly Cooper, a fourth-year Biochemistry student, has been part of Pole Fitness for a year and says the pandemic has completely changed her experience with the society.
“Previously, I attended two sessions a week, which was great. It got me out of the house, moving, and I met loads of people. Now, we have no sessions and the odd online social, which few people attend.”
In efforts to keep their members engaged, societies have attempted to adapt, offering online events with limited success. UEA’s radio station, Livewire1350, offered a Netflix Party movie marathon which Morgan Burdick, station manager, says “only three people attended”, whilst Men’s Rugby hosted their Christmas meal online, a practice which Sam Bruty, a fourth-year Biochemistry student, wasn’t impressed with.
“Online socials are always disappointing, and you don’t see your friends. I feel terrible for Freshers trying to meet new people. Rugby tried to help them by setting up a Buddy system, where club members check in with each other. It started out great, but everybody stopped trying. It just died off.”
Many students have reported their society experiences worsening as the pandemic has continued, with Cooper reckoning committee members, who are students themselves, are tired of weak responses to online events.
“They’ve got things to worry about too, deadlines and a pandemic – why keep trying to interact when they’re getting no response?”
Nevertheless, students remain optimistic about the future, particularly given the vaccination rollout across the UK.
First year Rugby player, Aedan McArthur, says: “I’m really hoping that, thanks to the vaccine, I can actually attend in-person socials and lectures, not just virtual ones!”