Staying in student accommodation after the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Australia may not sound like the most obvious choice for students already living on-campus, but for some UOW students, their residence was already their home. We spoke to two UOW accommodation residents and asked them why they decided to stay living on-campus during COVID-19.
Meet Vanessa and Paul
When remote delivery of classes was introduced by UOW there was no need for you to attend classes on campus, remain in student accommodation or even in Wollongong. Why did you choose to stay?
I’m a student Community Leader and I take great pride in having this role. Part of my role is to help build a sense of community in the residence, be available to advise on academic issues and provide support for students when they need it. I wanted to stay here and be available for the other residents who weren’t able to go home during the pandemic. It was really important to me.
I initially left accommodation and returned home to the Blue Mountains and completed the first session of study from home. Although it wasn’t long before I decided to come back, I just couldn’t stay away from the city of Wollongong or the friends I’ve made here. I love the Wollongong lifestyle and being able to walk along the beach (something I can’t do back home). Everyone here is incredibly social and has a great energy about them.
What do you think were the benefits of deciding to stay?
Going home to Norfolk Island seems like a holiday to me, so if I did go home I’m not sure how much remote learning I would’ve been doing. I felt by continuing to live at UOW accommodation I maintained a good routine and stayed in the right mindset to focus on achieving my study goals. By being here, I still had that sense of motivation and drive to continue doing uni work despite it being online. I also got to maintain the life that I had built away from home. I couldn’t just get up and leave that.
I found when I returned home to study I was not as motivated to study as I was when living here. By coming back to UOW accommodation there were a lot of resources I could access to help me with my studies including ResPASS and the campus library. ResPASS is where residents get together in a group three times a week and have peer-assisted study sessions. We can provide and receive advice on subjects and approaches to study and assessments. We get to bounce ideas off each other and there are always study snacks.
Do you feel a ‘stronger than usual’ sense of community was fostered at UOW accommodation during this time, especially given that some students were unable to go home and others choose to stay?
Definitely. COVID-19 slightly shifted things around at UOW accommodation but we are a close-knit community here and banded together throughout the changes. It was important for me to play my part in upholding the strong community we have built here. I wanted to be there for my fellow residents, particularly the international students who couldn’t return home.
Our close community is something that I love most about UOW accommodation and it’s been valuable support during this challenging time. UOW accommodation sees everyone come together no matter if they are international or Australian students, studying any degree from physics to creative arts. Everyone interacts with everyone and gets along, it’s a really diverse and inclusive community.
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Meet Ellie and Ron
Ellie is a UOW biomedical engineering student from Young in regional NSW and has been living at Kooloobong Village for two years. Ron is one of UOW's Accommodation managers. Ron has a professional background and personal passion for student wellbeing and welfare. Hear their thoughts on living in student accommodation during COVID-19, and why they believe it’s a great choice for students.See all residences
Hi, my name is Ron on the Student Residence Manager across Kooloobong Village, Graduate House and Bangalay.
Hi, I'm Ellie. I'm studying biomedical engineering at UOW and I live at Kooloobong.
Question slide: Why did you decide to remain living in student accommodation when classes were moved online?
I find it a lot easier to study when I'm around like-minded people and because all students here we have
the same motivations, and we can encourage each other to go well academically and also just take
breaks when we need. We're all in the same boat when it comes to the stresses that uni brings, and I found it a lot easier
to be around people who could understand me and relate to me when I was facing struggles with my uni studies. And we could lean on each other and
build support and a community together. The wi-fi, my hometown was pretty terrible though being able to stay here and use the free wi-fi was
definitely a bonus.
Question slide: How has UOW helped students living in-residence during this time?
It's widely accepted that young people are feeling a level of disconnect during COVID, but at UOW accommodation sites,
we ensure that they are part of the community, they've got the support and wellbeing behind them to ensure
academic success and overall wellbeing.
Question slide: Why is the wellbeing of students living in UOW accommodation so important?
It's acknowledged that when students move away from home, it's a particularly daunting time for them in their life.
They're young adults that have increased pressure around academic success, financial pressure and social life.
Prior to my commencement in this role, I was the Safe and Respectful Communities Manager and the safety and wellbeing of our students is
something that I hold really close to my heart, and something that I'm really passionate about. This is something I've brought into
my role as the manager of Kooloobong, Graduate House and Bangalay to ensure that there is continued success for our residents, whether it be academic
success or in their personal life and wellbeing.
Question slide: How was the community spirit maintained here when COVID-19 unfolded?
When COVID unfolded, we managed to find a really good balance between having fun and staying safe, so that brought in a lot of virtual
events as well as some face-to-face events later on. I found it really beneficial to the whole community, and I actually think it's made us bond a lot
more and become stronger in those bonds. I found it really difficult to build a strong connection with my cohort online, but staying at Kooloobong,
I've met so many people doing my degree and we can talk about our course, we can share our subjects together. I've been given a lot of
advice from older students, which is really helped me with my studies, and I've also been able to give advice to younger students to help
them with their studies.
Question slide: What are some of the health and safety measure in-place for students living in UOW accommodation?
Part of the safety of our residents is to ensure that we adapt to the New South Wales health guidelines around COVID safety.
So what we've done is we've increased our cleaning of our communal spaces, we've increased hand sanitisation stations and wipes. In our catered residence,
we've introduced a COVID Safety Monitor, staggered dining times and sign-in registers.
Question slide: Do you have advice for the parents whose children are planning to live in UOW student accommodation in 2021?
As a parent myself, I share the same concerns that you have. I have a daughter that's currently studying Year 12 doing her HSC, and I'm
nervous as well about her moving away from home. That's why I take a personal commitment to ensure that our sites provide our residents with
every opportunity to have academic success, wellbeing and provide pastoral care to our residents.
Question slide: Anything you’d like to let the students know Ellie?
University is so much more than just studying. It's also about making connections with other people. And at uni, regardless of if it's
online or in person, living on a residence, you can meet so many different people from all different walks of life. You'll be able to immerse yourself
in other people's cultures. You'll be able to learn about their food, and also their beliefs and perspectives. And it's honestly the best decision
I've ever made to live at Kooloobong.