Students banned from family but promised, ‘You’ll be home for Christmas’

It’s been an eventful few weeks since Freshers’ Week started for University of Edinburgh students, and at a time where ‘settling in’ seems life or death, going home may seem a far-off thought, but, with the Scottish government forcing students to stay in accommodation, this issue may be closer to home than expected.

So, the big question: can students go home? In short, no. When students made their way into halls or back up to flats, they formed a new household, meaning that it is now a legal offence to go home without a “reasonable excuse”. Because of this, for many Edinburgh students, the next visit home will be Christmas – quite a chilling fact for the new freshers struggling to navigate this unfamiliar ‘hybrid’ learning experience.

This news comes fast after students were banned from going into hospitality venues last weekend, a huge blow for those trying to see people apart from their flatmates, creating a belief amongst many students that they appear to be getting the brunt of the blame and the hardest restrictions.

The Scottish government doesn’t share this sentiment however, with First Minister Sturgeon saying that the rules are “tough for everybody”; however, with public transport a no-go and exceptionally few students having cars to travel to family, perhaps students are indeed getting a rough deal for this nine-grand experience. Sturgeon went on to say that it is a “priority to make sure students are able to return home for Christmas” and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson echoed this, saying “We are going to work with universities to make sure that all students are supported to return home safely and spend Christmas with their loved ones if they choose to do so.”

The Student caught up with Edinburgh first year Irina (Brae House), who said that she, like many students, is now deciding whether or not to stay at university, or to return home and be a ‘virtual student’, avoiding the risk of being trapped in halls. “I initially wanted to stay,” Irina said, “however every day the situation in my halls is deteriorating with more and more flats going into isolation, and I am considering going home now before it gets any worse.”

This frustration is shared by many students at Edinburgh, with a number of them condemning the new security guards patrolling halls to make sure people are maintaining social distancing. The general view is that while the intentions of the university may be good, this is not creating an environment that students would want to leave home for.

University has always been seen as a vital step in leaving home, however with the option of returning becoming less and less feasible for Edinburgh students, let’s hope we’ll all be driving home for Christmas.

Illustration by Eve Miller