Keeping the spirit alive: how does college life work in lockdown?

By Emily McAuliffe

Trinity student Jasper Garner gives us the inside scoop on what’s happening at Trinity College and how our students are staying connected both on and off campus.

Jasper Garner_Trinity College‘It’s still busy … but it’s different.’

That’s second-year student Jasper Garner’s summation of life at Trinity College at the moment. Jasper, along with 160 others, remains at Trinity, confined within the residential college gates.

But really, being stuck at college isn’t so bad. Trinity students have been refining their community-building skills for the best part of 150 years, and as you’ll soon discover, the buoyant Trinitarian lifestyle can’t be easily ruffled.

That said, mere weeks ago the world was a different place and students like Jasper had no idea how a lockdown might unfold … or, rather, enfold.

When the announcement came that the Queensland border was closing, Jasper needed to make a swift choice between returning to his family on the Gold Coast or staying within the bounds of the Trinity campus for an indeterminate period of time.

‘It actually wasn’t that hard a decision,’ says Jasper on reflection. ‘I knew I’d be better off here for a long period of time. Obviously I miss my family, but it’s better for my studies. I have all the facilities here and it’s a big place to move around in.’

While Jasper had the option to leave, some of his fellow Trinitarians didn’t. ‘I know a few international students who couldn’t go home at all because of the travel bans. They literally had their flights cancelled at the airport and had to come back,’ he says. Others have elderly or immune-compromised relatives at home and couldn’t risk returning. 

While Jasper admits there was a two-week period where everything felt up in the air and students were uncertain about what was going on, he says the Trinity student cohort has now found its groove.

‘Just being at college helps maintain a sense of normality, even though I know it’s not a very normal situation,’ he says. ‘Everyone is really happy here, and it’s kind of like a little bubble where you can almost forget about the coronavirus.

‘We can still get together in small groups, although there are restrictions as to how close we can get to each other, and we’re doing lots of fitness on the Bul [Trinity’s central lawn]. We’re also doing socially distanced netball, tennis, and talent competitions, so there are lots of things for us to do.’

But what about those who elected to return home?

‘I still definitely think they’re part of the community,’ says Jasper. ‘For example, we filmed a survivor-style competition at college, like the TV show, and made episodes to post to everyone at home, and we’re doing live-streaming competitions.

‘The overarching message at the moment is that everyone is here to support us, and that’s especially coming from [Trinity’s] wellbeing team. A lot of corridors are doing Zoom meetings to regularly catch-up with the people at home too, and we have group chats with people at home, so I’m keeping in touch with all my friends,’ he says.

‘Everyone is doing as much as they can to make everyone feel as included as possible, even at a distance. As a college we’ve definitely prioritised that.’

27 Apr 2020