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Being a student during the coronavirus pandemic

Jacob Whitehurst is a first year sport and exercise science student at Hallam, and his experiences during the last few months have been typical of the situation facing many students.

When the Prime Minister announced a nationwide lockdown on 23 March it meant that he was no longer able to work the casual hours that he had scheduled for the coming weeks and months, alongside his studies.

Despite planning his finances carefully, with a daily budget of less than £8 once his bills are paid for, Jacob relies heavily on the income he’s received from employment throughout his first year.

He was given the option to leave his accommodation early to return home, however, with his mother considered to be at high risk, this gave him some difficult choices to make.

Initially, he stayed in his accommodation, completely alone. More recently he has moved back home with his mother but has to take extra care when it comes to social distancing and staying inside as much as possible to make sure he doesn’t pass anything on. And the constant fear of this happening has been a source of anxiety for Jacob.

“Trying to find a new structure to my daily routine has been a struggle due to the sudden change in lifestyle,” he said.

“It has been stressful thinking about if I am doing too much or too little in the way of development on my course and I have felt guilty at times for not knowing what I should be doing or what to do in that situation.”

Jacob was also hoping to secure some subject-relevant work experience this summer to his develop skills and experience in the workplace. However, with that now being impossible, he’s worried that this could affect his future job prospects.

“I feel as though I am going to be disadvantaged when looking for placements and other work. I worry I won’t have enough time to do the necessary work experience to set myself apart from my peers and it will delay or hinder future job prospects,” he added.

Despite the loneliness, anxiety and financial hardship caused by the situation facing Jacob, he has managed to use his time productively, finishing assessments and focussing on his own health and wellbeing by making it a priority in his daily routine.

Jacob’s story is not unusual. Forty-one percent of Hallam students come from low income backgrounds, making it difficult for them to pay for basic expenses while studying, even without the added strains of a global pandemic.

Uncertainties about future employment and social isolation can also affect students’ mental health.

That is why the Sheffield Hallam Coronavirus Appeal has been put in place – to tackle these issues and support students across the university, like Jacob, who are facing unprecedented challenges as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Appeal will provide support to students that have been most seriously affected by this crisis so they can continue their studies. To find out more about how you can help, please visit the Sheffield Hallam Coronavirus Appeal page.

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