Life Style

“A second start”: at the university, the hope of an almost normal year



In the shadow of the Panthéon, some take a break between two books from the Sainte-Geneviève library. Others exchange first impressions at the end of their pre-entry at the nearby university or have met there, around one of the long wooden tables arranged in the public space, on the heights of a district. Latin remained very student. After a year and a half of quasi-closure of the faculties, all have only one hope, that of a “return to normal”.

→ READ. At university, the goal of a “100% face-to-face” start

“When I learned this summer at 1 pm that the government wanted a 100% face-to-face return, I jumped for joy in front of my TV”, says Sophie, in her third year of a math and physics license. A reaction to the opposite of the abatement that had won the young woman, at the beginning of 2021. “I couldn’t take distance education anymore. Sometimes I kept my pajamas on all day. Classes often continued until 6 p.m., curfew time. I didn’t go out all week… ”

Undermined by these disembodied and lonely learning conditions, with rare visits to college for practical work and exams, Sophie hesitated to interrupt her studies. ” What for ? “ she wonders again. His relatives dissuaded him from doing so. She clenched her teeth. A new semester has started. Lessons “Less abstract” appeared. The thirst for learning has returned. In this re-entry with lightened sanitary constraints, with masks but without limit of gauge, Sophie wants to believe in the possibility of really studying. “Re-motivated”, this Yvelinoise has also rented a room in Paris so as not to have to make exhausting trips back and forth between the family home and the university.

→ READ. Towards a rebound in student mobility in Europe

Find a frame, a rhythm

In L3 like Sophie, Ambroise also says to himself ” fortunate “ to have accommodation in Paris. But this economics student aspires to only one thing: to no longer be forced to work within the four walls of his U. “My method, usually, is to work a lot at the university and in the library, then be quiet at home.. I absolutely need a frame ”, he said, happy at the idea of “Find a metro-amphi-dodo rhythm”.

Last year, summarizes Ambroise, it was “Just horrible”. The young man keeps the memory of incessant technical problems – “Connection difficulties, inaudible sound, the painting somehow filmed with the computer camera”. Even if, he welcomes, teaching practices have evolved towards more reverse pedagogy (1),better suited to the context, “Nothing beats a face-to-face tutorial session, with a teacher close at hand”.

If Ambroise was able to finish his L2 with an average of 12 out of 20, it is because solidarity played a full role on social networks, with some students sharing their grades. It is also at the very beginning of his studies, before the Covid and the strike which, in December 2019, disrupted the functioning of his university, the young man was able to forge solid friendships with the comrades of his class. “Since then, my friends have remained determined, focused on preparing for the exams. The regular contacts that I kept with them clearly motivated me. Without my friends, I might have redoubled ”, he breathes. Ambroise also wonders how the members of the following class, the one who landed at college a year ago and only had a few weeks of face-to-face lessons, were able to understand the codes, the customs, the expected from college…

“A great need for student life”

Ambroise speaks of this return as a “Second start”, with in particular the prospect of group work sessions, physically gathered around a table, and more generally “An impetus, an emulation”.

For many, the expectations go beyond learning. Benjamin, a Breton who is integrating a second year of a master’s degree in law in Paris these days, feels around him “A great need for student life”. A year ago, then at Sciences Po, the young man was already expecting a rebound in campus life. But he quickly became disillusioned. “My association organized a first integration event, which, despite the precautions, turned into a cluster evening”, he laments. The rest comes down to a few zoom aperitifs and remote games, such as quizzes … “Not really friendly”, Benjamin quipped. Especially since many like him, fleeing the closed doors of their student room, returned to their parents, far from Paris.

It is difficult to know if campus life will resume as before the pandemic. “But at least we have the cafes where we can meet informally, observes Benjamin. Hoping they won’t close again! “

Reclaiming odd jobs

The cafes… You also have to have the means to get there. By turning off the tap on odd jobs, the health crisis has accentuated and highlighted student precariousness. For many, the possibility of holding one or more jobs constitutes, paradoxically, the very condition for continuing studies.

→ READ. Student life, a rising cost, falling aid

“I submitted CVs in the hope of finding a job equivalent to the one I lost at the time of the first confinement, a job of fifteen hours a week in the restaurant business”, thus confides Jacques, in master’s degree in Orléans. At the time, this life sciences student could not have continued to pay his rent without the support of the O’SEM association, created by university staff and which today benefits from the solidarity of readers of The cross (2).

Health constraints have also produced other, more direct consequences on student paths, with many courses now including long periods of internship. “Some of my classmates have not found any or have seen their internship canceled at the last moment, which complicates the validation of their year”, tells Tracy, in M2 of law in Orléans.

“Almost no vaccine refractory”

By multiplying the applications, the young woman ended up finding: “I will be an intern, two days a week, in a law firm. Enough to help me prepare for entry to bar school. ” Provided, she crosses her fingers, that the health situation does not deprive her of this opportunity to cut her teeth on the job market …

In higher education, as in business, the government’s strategy is primarily based on vaccination, with the possibility of being vaccinated on campus. “The government has done well not to impose a pass at the entrance to the lecture halls and to appeal to our sense of responsibility”, reacts Lisa, with a double degree in political science and law. “In my class, I hardly know any vaccine refractory. Even those who initially expressed fears took the plunge. We all want to relive! ” she slips. According to the ministry, more than 85% of 18-24 year olds have already received a first dose, nearly 77% have completed their vaccination schedule.

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A streamlined protocol for the start of the student year

♦ No gauge limitation. For this start of the academic year, which lasts for the month of September, the government has set the objective of a 100% face-to-face recovery.

♦ Barrier gestures. The obligation to wear a mask is maintained.

No health pass. This sesame will not be required of students to enter their institution.

♦ A strategy based on vaccination. Vaccination centers piloted by regional health agencies and mobilizing university health services, if necessary, will be set up on campuses. If a site has few students, slots may be reserved for them in ordinary vaccination centers nearby.

♦ The possibility of test. The government is also promising the delivery to establishments of 2.5 million free self-tests.

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