University students are beginning their return to university after studying from home for a long period as the coronavirus pandemic hit hard.

Indeed, it is even harder for those starting university life and we talked to two Fermanagh students who are about to start their university journey during the recovery from Covid-19.

One of those students is Oisín Maguire from Kinawley who is due to start a Law degree at Queen’s University, Belfast who is “still excited to begin the next part of my academic life”.

There have been changes in the university experience as Oisín explained: “The most obvious policy is that on face masks.

“It is mandatory to wear a face covering in all in-person teaching and training such as lectures and seminars.

“The university has pledged their commitment to face-to-face learning. However, some learning will be done online.”

I am staying in Queen’s accommodation. Rather than just arriving when I please, I have booked a slot to move and I am only permitted one other person with me to help. I am also not allowed guests to stay until, for now, the 10th of January.”

There may be cause for concern for some Fermanagh students based in Belfast as tighter restrictions were brought into place on September 14 (Monday) which prohibits indoors gatherings and only allows for six people to gather outside in a garden.

Oisín has some concerns for the future of localised lockdowns.

He said: “While, at the moment this is not a full-scale lockdown as such, with positive cases continuing to rise I think it is an inevitability.

“It is possible that this could impact travel home which would clash with my part-time work.”

“The situation that we are in is unfortunate.

“There is no denying that. I am concerned that my social life may be affected, but more importantly there is a possibility that my actual degree could be affected if remote learning was to become a permanent solution.

“In current times, I think my biggest fear is not being able to meet new people.”

Trudie McComb has made the leap across the water to Plymouth to study Human Biosciences at University of Plymouth.

The Coa woman is beginning to settle into student life although it was a strange start for her and her family.

“We had to book our slots and mine was at 9.30am and they only had two students moving into the block at a time and we had an hour and a half to get everything in.”

Trudie isn’t nervous about the move to online learning, she said: “Inductions classes have all been online so far which is good.

“I’m not nervous about the virus. I’d rather the uni be safe online instead of doing in it person and the place being riddled with corona.”

Trudie had been worried about the impact of Covid-19 on her social life, this worry came as last week Boris Johnson announced that that no more than six people can meet in social groups in England.

Trudie was worried about not meeting people while starting university but was able to meet a small group of people before the restrictions came into place.

She said: “I was worried if I hadn’t went along that I’d have no friends.” A keen sportswoman having been a member of Enniskillen Royal Boat club throughout school, Trudie was “disappointed” that the university will have no sports or society meetings until at least November because of the restrictions with Covid-19.

“The university did not provide any face coverings for the prospective students unlike other universities but there is hand sanitizer in the entry to the halls and there are cleaning products that have been left in the kitchen as well as the cleaners who come once a week.”

With concerns about the rate of coronavirus infections in young people, eyes will be on the student population as university resumes for another year.