University students from Fermanagh are facing the prospect of beginning their studies isolated alone in their bedrooms away from their peers and at risk of catching the Coronavirus as cases rise across the UK.

Fermanagh students are facing the reality that they could face lockdown in England and across the UK for months away from their family and friends, all to help fight the spread of Covid-19.

One of the first areas to go into 'localised lockdowns' was Liverpool and Merseyside - a popular university destination for many students from Fermanagh.

One such Fermanagh student who hasn’t had an ideal start to university life in England is 19-year-old Molly Rees, from Enniskillen.

Talking about her current situation to The Impartial Reporter, she said: “I’m currently having to self-isolate due to a person in my house having Covid-19, and I'm restricted to my room, which is awful for my mental health, and I don’t think that is being considered at all.”

Molly is concerned about other friends and peers who have already started university.

“I feel for some of my friends, especially for those who've been isolating from the start. They didn’t get a Freshers [introduction to college life], and all lectures are online. It’s hard for them to make friends, and [college life] can feel quite alone for them.”

Molly is studying at Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA), so she had access to some practical classes before her housemate was diagnosed with Covid-19.

She said: “I feel very privileged that the majority of my lectures are in uni; however, I am [studying] online now and, after spending a week in lectures changing to online, I can see how much of a massive different it actually is, which some students may not realise as they never got the chance to experience a real, physical lecture.”

Molly is concerned about having to travel home as she believes Liverpool is the best place for her to be, career-wise.

She said: “I’m really concerned about having to go back home and to have lectures online there, because I’ve found my heart is in Liverpool.

"I feel like this is where I’m meant to be, and as much as I love Enniskillen, to allow me to grow and develop into the career I want, I need to be here, and to be able to be close to LIPA to be able to use the resources.”

She is becoming more concerned about the threat of students having to stay 'home' at their college base for Christmas, which hasn’t been ruled out by England's Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock.

Molly said: “Not allowing students to go home for Christmas is not right, and it’s unfair for both students and parents.

"It’s a very scary thought, that I could be forced to stay somewhere against my will.

"I know some students who have a suitcase packed in case they have to go home immediately, because there were no pre-warning of these recent lockdowns.”

Elsewhere across the city is Rosslea woman, Caoimhe Connolly, who is entering her final year of studies at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU). She is working towards her degree in Accounting and Finance.

Caoimhe is critical of the curfew on pubs, as she believes people are finding other ways to party.

She said: “This week, I’ve seen young women in their mini-skirts and heels walking around town before noon.

"My accommodation is next door to a primary school, and I have seen some students coming home at a time when kids are walking to their classes.

"I have also seen video footage of street raves in the city centre. Closing the doors on local nightlife at 10pm doesn’t deter the crowds - it only pushes them elsewhere.”

Caoimhe is most concerned about the financial pressures of having the universites encouraging home learning while still paying full fees.

She said: “My main concern is the financial worry. I am paying £9,250 to my university, and over £5,000 for my accommodation to sit in a room all week to read 10-20 PowerPoint presentation slides, using my own computer and printing facilities.

"To me, and to many other students, it just doesn’t add up. I think our argument is falling on deaf ears, if I’m honest, because the universities, local councils and governments seem to be doing nothing. I am not hearing any plans to compensate [students for such home-studying costs].”

Whatever the outcome over the next few weeks as Covid-19 cases continue to rise, the future remains uncertain for students across the UK, as well as the many Fermanagh students studying away from home.