For many students, living in university accommodation provides easy access to campus and its facilities along with a great social life. But with campuses shut due to lockdowns and social distancing, how are students in Sydney adapting to communal spaces while staying mindful of hygiene?
According to Anisha Samanta, a public relations student staying in a student accommodation in Camperdown, it was already an uncomfortable bathroom situation. In her accommodation, there are over 70 single rooms and six common bathrooms for each gender on every floor.
“I was never comfortable with sharing a bathroom since the day I moved in. To me, it’s a very personal space,” she explained. Since social distancing measures were implemented, these bathrooms and all door handles are being cleaned every few hours, but she remains sceptical of the hygiene.
Her building has also implemented a rule of maximum two people in a lift to maintain 1.5 metres distance. “There are three lifts for over 500 residents. We’re always waiting for it,” she said, adding that she lives on the 11th floor.
But she recognises that staying in an accommodation like this does allow for some social interactions.
“At least I can see people around and I have friends in the building. It’s less frustrating than other people’s situations,” she said.
Premal Shah, a finance student living in the same building, acknowledges that living alone can be difficult, but he sees this time as a learning experience.
“This situation is teaching me to enjoy being by myself,” he explained, “And student accommodation services are really trying their best to comply with the law.”
All common areas in the building (with the exception of bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry services) have been shut and sanitizer bottles have been provided for public use on every floor.
“They’ve implemented virtual social hangouts for all residents. There are games and online workout routines. There’s even a weekly game called ‘Guess That Sound’ which wins you a chance at a $20 UberEats gift card,” he said.
Management student Vandana Dahiya lives in a student village in Macquarie Park. Her five-bedroom apartment has ensuite bathrooms and a kitchen to be shared by all.
“We have our own bathrooms and we’ve made it a point to cook one at a time, using separate utensils. We’ve also kept sanitizer at home and use gloves for washing dishes,” she explained.
The student village has provided sanitizers at all entrances and banned gatherings of more than two people in all common areas.
Some of Vandana’s flatmates have returned home during this period. This means there are fewer people in the house – and fewer social interactions.
“I visit other apartments a lot less now… Some people continue to meet in the village, there isn’t much restriction on that,” she admitted.
In her student accommodation in Kensington, advertising and design student Amreen Badani lives in a six-bedroom apartment with attached bathrooms and a common kitchen.
“Everyone’s very aware of being hygienic. We clean as soon as we cook and wipe down our tables. We’ve labelled our utensils so that we’re mindful of not using other people’s things,” she explained. All flatmates wash their hands as soon as they enter communal spaces like their living room and because of these measures, she feels quite safe inside.
“We’ve made a fun environment where we play board games and hang out. It isn’t isolating,” she acknowledged.
As per her building’s rules, now only five people (maintaining social distance) are allowed in common areas. In-person activities continue under strict distancing measures and additional wash basins have been installed.
“We have movie screenings with a maximum of five people at a time. We host Zumba classes in the common room. Normally the room can host almost 40 people, but we usually have just 10-15 people with social distance,” she said.
Through all these measures, students like her believe that it’s easier to feel supported during a difficult time.