We (Catherine and Alaia) were discussing what it was like being home instead of finishing off our penultimate years at university in Warsaw and St Andrews.
As we were chatting, we realised that, while we both love the Isle of Man, the student community here just isn’t what it is across, which is so surprising when you consider that we have UCM offering full-time higher education to students over here, too.
Catherine went and did some more research about unions and the situation on the Island, and came back to me a few days later saying “This is actually feasible, shall we do it?”
I (Alaia) was obviously onboard straight away. The student experience on the Isle of Man is sort of ‘you go to uni, you come home for the holidays, you maybe come back after if you’re doing accountancy or law’, and although so many students do return for the holidays, there’s not much on offer for us like there is in the UK.
The more we looked into it, the more we realised what a huge oversight this was, and just how much could be done for students who live and study on the Island full time, and those that study across.
With the onset of COVID-19, the number of students living on the island has increased drastically, and may continue to increase as students choose to defer placements, or study on the Island instead of going away.
Considering how many students there are studying both across, and at UCM, it’s such a shame that there isn’t more of a community where we can discuss common problems, and share our opinions on the student experience, with each other.
I know that for me personally, being able to discuss with my friends how each of our universities are handling the coronavirus outbreak has been hugely helpful in thinking about what the future holds, and also in dealing with the struggle of having our year ended so abruptly.
By expanding the discussion, we can ensure that any and all questions that Island students have, can be answered – it’s likely that there’s lots of others with the same worries!
Our Island has so much to offer for its residents, but in terms of student-centred initiatives, there’s not much out there.
There are numerous services in the UK (run by both the universities themselves, and external charities) which help with welfare and mental health support, as well as offering financial aid for those who need it.
That’s not to say that those same initiatives are not at work on the Island, just that the information about them is a little more difficult to access.
We wanted to offer a place where these resources could be collated and stored in order to make them more accessible to students, as well as providing that discussion space.
We hope that this helps to not only build a tighter community, but foster a sort of unified ‘student voice’ which can raise any concerns with the relevant authorities across the Island.
Should you choose to enter into higher education and stay on the Island, you become a student in name only.
But the reality is that your position in the Manx community has changed based on your decision to continue studying.
As there are currently few provisions for students who study on the Island, they are at a disadvantage when compared to their counterparts in the UK.
Many students in the current climate will be considering studying on Island, and they shouldn’t be penalised for this decision.
There is no good reason for the Isle of Man not to cater to the student market; it is something from which many sectors could benefit, not just the students.
There is so much potential for a strong community of students to thrive on the Island.
This is an exciting opportunity for the Island as a whole, so let’s work together.