As COVID 19 became a global issue, it has had major impacts on our ability to study, including an inability to study on campus and added stress the transition to online learning. In a similar fashion, I knew this assessment was going to have its challenges and issues from the beginning. Since moving out of home I have learnt that your surroundings and environment can have a major impact on your life and wellbeing, and it is this ideology that first inspired my research topic. Like a large portion of other students, in a transition to tertiary education I moved out of home for the first year of my life, where I chose to live on University Accommodation and currently still live there, having both advantages and disadvantages on my lifestyle. From the get go I drove to explore the question, ‘How does living on campus affect your university experience?’ Depending on responses from the BCM212 cohort I expanded this research to a range of different living environments and aimed to assess the positive and negative impacts of each. I wanted to ask questions regarding how people perceive the way their particular environment impacts their social life, physical health, study productivity and financial situation. I want to know how and why people live the way they do. Through this, I developed an understanding of how living on campus has impacted individual’s study and experience while at University.

In search of answers, I conducted a research project at the University of Wollongong. My project comprised of an online survey that was completed by a sample of 11 students from the BCM212 cohort. The survey asked students to answer an array of questions, both multiple choice and short answer, that explored their personal experience with UOW Student Accommodation, and its related effects on study on student performance, with results as follows. It is important to note that this small-scale research project had several limitations, including sample size and diversity. I would suggest that an up-scaled project on this topic be conducted over an extended time period to allow for a larger sample size and more diverse student range to be included. This would be beneficial to the aim of the project and acquire more concrete evidence in answer to this research question.

Living situation

Results showed that majority of students – 55% – chose to live at Kooloobong Village Student Accommodation, the on-campus accommodation provided by the University. An inclusion among the survey showed majority lived with more than 1 other person within their accommodation. 82% of students identified living with both genders, with an age of roommates ranging from 18 – 21 years. Travel to University was the most diverse living condition, with commutes ranging from a short walk to a 40-minute car ride, including the use of both personal vehicles, and a small reliance on public transport.

Study

Most research participants in this particular studying were undergoing a Bachelor of  Communications and Media – 91% – majoring in various areas, with one participant outlier studying a Bachelor of Arts. Majority of students see their ideal productive study set up at home at a desk with little room for distractions. One profound answer states “Very Organised, with a view of the outside and some light snacks. Also, some music.” This particular insight supports a concept from Rana, G. (2019); “Results prove that home atmosphere influences academic achievement. The home atmosphere should be conducive for good academic performance.” Furthermore, participant study time ranged from 12 to 40 hours per week, and an ability to handle workload ranging from ‘quite easily” to “I’m a procrastinator and usually leave things till the night before/day its due”. The range suggests that students reaction to workload generally differs due to personal study situation and work ethic.

Social

From the survey results I noticed clear social normality throughout my participants. 91% of students found there was a drinking culture on campus, supported by the discovery that drinking with friends and going out was a common social past time among almost all participants. To the question ‘How do you like to socialise?’, one student outlines, “Going out to dinner/drinks with my friends. Clubs now and then”,  with majority of participants presenting similar past times as well as participating in sporting teams and casual social outings. 73% of participants express they spend more than 10 hours socialising a week and mostly agree that socialising helps them to destress from university assessments and other commitments or responsibilities. One noticeable response stated: “In some ways, I feel the amount that I socialised meant that I had more limited time to study. I worked 20+ hours a week and was committed to a full season of rugby union, which often made it difficult to find time to effectively study and complete assessments. In other ways socialising or training was the main method I used to take breaks from study and clear my head. I think time away from study and having a good social life and a group of friends is integral in having a healthy study/life balance.” This response the struggle faced by many participants to effectively balance University work with other responsibilities.

Life style

According to my survey all my participates agreed that exercise was a relatively stable part of their weekly schedule, and some having daily workout routines. The bulk of students agreeing that it positively affects their study and student life, as one student responds to the enquiry ‘Do you think exercise impacts your study?’ with the statement, “Yes, exercise is my main way to release frustration I have from uni and clear my head before continuing with my work. Socialising with my teammates puts me in a good mood, plus I always feel accomplished which makes me more motivated to complete work”. This concept that physical activity has an overriding positive effect on study life supports that of Ge, Y. et al. (2020) who states, “The present study confirmed that LST and VIPA were independently and concurrently associated with significantly lower stress among college students, suggesting that promoting Physical  and reducing screen time might be an effective way to reduce perceived stress among college students.”

References:

Ge, Y. et al. (2020) ‘Independent and combined associations between screen time and physical activity and perceived stress among college students’, Addictive Behaviors, 103. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.106224.

Rana, G. (2019) ‘Relationship of different dimensions of home environment and academic achievement of adolescents’, IAHRW International Journal of Social Sciences Review, 7(4), pp. 563–568. Available at: https://search-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/login.aspx?direct=true&db=sih&AN=136207120&site=eds-live (Accessed: 8 June 2020).

REFLECTION

In BCM212 ‘Understanding Research Practice’, I learned a lot about my chosen topic, the student living experience on at UOW as well as valuable knowledge about what successful research looks like. Navigating the constraints of the size of our research sample and the time we had to complete the task was able to be overcome by supporting one another and learning quickly how to be agile with our research. I learned the importance of time and risk management, appropriate research methods, and research ethics. Reflexive research was a concept that stood out to me as I had never heard of it before but it made so much sense! In previous research for other university tasks I always felt like there is an inherent bias that we pretend isn’t there, so the concept of the acknowledgment of the influence and agenda you have for your research was fascinating to me. All of the content in BCM212 was valuable in helping to make sure our research had substance, impact, and relevance.

BCM212 was engaging and I found interacting with other students’ research to be fun. Seeing all the students support one another on Twitter and in our Webex tutorials was motivating and kept me interested in the subject. I think that my final opinion piece could have been enriched with a focus group or interview with other BCM212 students but remote learning heightened the difficulty to have the time or the confidence to organise that. If we were in a classroom setting, a focus group or interview would have been more easily accessible. However, I am really happy with the scope of responses that my surveys generated.

I chose to research the student volunteering experience because it was something that interested me and I also felt like it was a unique topic. My research leads me to conclude that UOW has great volunteering opportunities that perhaps could have more student involvement by directly accessing students to inform them of UOW volunteering opportunities and how it will help them in their degree/career more specifically.