Wartime students’ tough life

UGC Columnist Emily Fitzgibbons
UGC Columnist Emily Fitzgibbons
Share this article
Have your say

After thousands recently commemorated the 70th anniversary of D-Day, August also marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. As a student myself, it is easy for me to wonder if there are any comparisons between those attending university in the 21st century and war-time students.

Degrees such as Learning from YouTube (Pitzer College), The Science of Superheroes (UC Irvine) and Zombies in Popular Media (Columbia College) weren’t around in the 1900s. Courses for students in war time were more useful to daily life. Popular courses were engineering or teaching. When free time from studying arises now, the first thing a modern student does is head to the pub with friends or takes a nap. However, a few decades back things were different. Many would help create air raid defences for their accommodation with sandbags, timber and scaffolding.

Many halls of residence had a live in warden and matron. Socialising would have been different. No noise after a certain time and drinking often wasn’t permitted for many reasons, rationing being one of them.

Today, to the annoyance of some, all students living in university accommodation are subject to weekly fire drills. These are usually held on Monday mornings or if you’re unlucky, when you’re taking a shower.

But, do students nowadays really have it tough?

Students in wartime Britain didn’t get personal bathrooms, they had to share, including communal bedrooms that weren’t always with people of the same sex. As for a weekly fire practice, they had more worrying drills to endure. Air raid siren practices were of more importance. Gas mask tests were also a regular occurrence.

Maybe us modern-day students haven’t got it as hard as we think. Yes, the workload is large but meeting new friends and having fun, memorable experiences that will last a lifetime more than make up for it.

Some of the brightest young soldiers didn’t return from war to see their loved ones, let alone finish their degree. The University of Glasgow, along with some other universities, has a memorial chapel to honour and remember the war heroes who used to study there.