By: Khadija Faruqui
After the imposition of the new SOPs following a COVID outbreak on campus and the subsequent lockdown, many of the students residing on campus began checking out in droves. Although, there still remain a significant number of students on campus, most have returned to their homes as they found campus life under the new restrictions to be increasingly stressful and debilitating to their mental health.
Since the friends of many hostelites were day scholars, the revocation of campus access for day scholars exacerbated the feelings of isolation felt by these students. Fatima Qazi ‘24, a student who left campus in the beginning of April, said, “It’s so depressing here. I had a breakdown because there is no [family] support system. ”
In the case of first-year students especially, the relatively fewer opportunities they had to make friends on campus contributed to increased isolation. Qazi ‘24 further elaborated on her decision to leave and said, “The reason I came to campus was because I’m from the northern areas and I had internet problems at home but because of how lonely staying on campus has been, I’m [prioritizing] taking care of my mental health.”
Many students who left, felt as though leaving campus was a better option especially with regards to the transmission of the virus on campus. Qazi ‘24 said, ”My family is very concerned with regards to the COVID outbreak on campus. Everyday there are like two new cases which caused a lot of anxiety, home felt much safer.
The university has taken measures to restrict the spread of the disease through measures like banning non-essential personnel from entering the University and placing restrictions on how many people can congregate in one place. Despite these actions, there still remain active cases on campus and this has contributed to the uneasiness of hostel residents.
There are still quite a few students who are forced to reside on campus despite the mental and emotional stress of this. Tahir Shah ‘24, a student who chose to remain on campus due to the connectivity issues he faces at home, said of his decision, “My family is scared about the COVID situation but they understand my situation. They know, like I do, if I want to reach somewhere in life, especially as an NOP student, I need to have the best possible facilities.” Many students like Shah ‘24 are obligated to stay on campus by extenuating circumstances such as the lack of internet and fluctuating electricity at their homes.
Some students are also staying on campus due to the safe and secure learning environment provided by the University, especially in comparison to the dangers and distractions of stay-at-home learning. Sameed Ali ‘22 explained his reasons behind staying and said, “I plan to stay till the last day of the semester because I need the LUMS environment and the safe space that it represents in order to study.”
Although the LUMS campus proves to be an ideal space for those who face internet, electricity and personal challenges in their own homes it is critical to recognize and correct the negative impact on these students’ mental and emotional well-being due to their isolation on campus. Shah ‘24 said, “My close friends have all gone back home. They aren’t letting us leave campus and there’s one person per room which adds to the loneliness.” Another concern, which weighs on the minds of hostelites is how the low strength of people on campus has led to campus feeling very eerie and ghostlike. In the words of Ali ‘22, “Sometimes it feels like campus is haunting me and there are times when you feel scared going back to your dorm at night because of how quiet it is.”
For many students, isolation from friends and family and the single occupancy dorms have exacerbated stress and feelings of seclusion. With regards to how enervating the lack of human contact was Ali ‘22 added, “The counsellors which LUMS provides, even those communicate through online platforms so for someone staying on campus it can feel really isolating as you have no one to spend time with and vent to who’ll understand what you’re going through.”
The students who currently remain on campus are doing so because of serious personal and technological issues back home – the severe consequences of this commitment to their academics cannot be overlooked. Feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anxiety are at a concerningly high point in most hostelites and it is vital that LUMS and its student community collaborate to mitigate these.