Dec 4, 2020
Interviews & Inspiration | Lauranne Heres
Corona diaries: This month we’re talking to a couple of students who are letting us know what it’s been like for them since the beginning of the pandemic.
Which year are you in and what do you study?
Juliette: I’m in third year and I study English Literature
Jonah: I’m in first year and I study Mathematics and Philosophy.
What happened with your studies as soon as the pandemic became a reality in the UK?
Juliette: All the teaching went online for the last two weeks (or was cancelled), and our deadlines for finals were moved back a week. Some of them were cancelled, others' word counts were lowered (whether that was actually helpful is debatable, as a lot of us find writing less more stressful).
Jonah: I was on a gap year when the pandemic struck. As a result, my studies weren't at all affected, only my plans to travel were.
Did you feel like your university was ready to move classes remote?
Juliette: I don't think anyone was actually prepared for the whole situation, and I wouldn't be able to tell you, because all of my teachers simply cancelled their classes or uploaded old lectures, from last year or earlier. I heard a lot of my friends complaining that it wasn't the same though. I think they're definitely more prepared this year, regardless.
Jonah: Since I was not studying at the time, I only had third party accounts of the impact the pandemic had on university classes. What friends and siblings at university had told me gave me the impression that the move to online classes was not too damaging. However, this was never a particularly important concern of mine.
Have you moved back home, or did you stay in your own flat/University accommodation?
Juliette: I stayed in my own flat with flatmates.
Jonah: I was always planning to live at home during my first year, so my plans were unchanged.
Have you been able to go on campus at all in between lockdowns? Has there been a Fresher's week?
Juliette: I haven't been on campus at all, although some of my friends have in person classes. Mine are all online. I have the opportunity to go to the library, but I don't really study well there and I'd rather limit my outings. I'm a third year so freshers isn't so much a thing for us, but it literally passed like any other week - completely non-existent.
Jonah: I was able to go to campus once a week for tutorials of two of my modules this semester. To the best of my knowledge the fresher's week was mostly moved online with events running on zoom.
How has being stuck inside affected your mood?
Juliette: All in all, I'm okay, as I work in a school part-time so I'm working even during the lockdown. But I have to admit that it's really upsetting to lose that in person quality you have on campus - talking in the corridor before, running into someone on the stairs, just being in the centre of London all the time like previous years.
Jonah: Thankfully, being stuck inside hasn't really affected my mood. I'm lucky to have not been too affected by this year's chaos.
Do you find that you are getting more work done by yourself or do you miss interactions with other students and teachers?
Juliette: I'd say I get basically the same amount of work done - I still have seminars so I don't lose any "intellectual" interaction with students so to speak, and I talk to all my friends on the phone really often. Most of an English student's work is really just reading independently, so it doesn't impact me all that much.
Jonah: In general, I don't know if I can say that I'm getting more or less work done. I enjoy the time at home but do prefer the in-person tutorials I once had to the one's held online. I think this has mostly to do to with the fact that in person teaching facilitates interactions between students and the teachers.
Does your course require any group work or practical activities that require going on campus?
Jonah: To the best of knowledge, my course does not require any group work but some of my modules encourage it.
What information did you get about the new year in the summer? Were you told to go back to campus or asked to stay at home?
Juliette: We were largely told that next year would be mostly online, and I was always prepared for it to be, so when the news came definitely that we were to stay at home and that everything would be online, I wasn't all that surprised.
Jonah: The only information I received in the summer was a phone call which asked if I had any questions about the start of term. This was a nice gesture that proved insightful. However, due to the volatility of the situation not a lot of information could be given with much certainty. During this call, I was not asked to stay at home or go back to campus.
Do you feel like you are missing out on the "typical" University experience because of the pandemic?
Juliette: Yes, I've had that for the past two years and I feel like I've largely lost that. You can organise as many online events as you like, it's not the same, exciting atmosphere you get from walking into university and thinking "maybe I'll meet someone new today" or "maybe I'll see something super weird/crazy/fun". It's just a student, sitting in front of their computer, in their room. That being said, that has its pros as well.
Jonah: I think that the pandemic has caused an atypical university experience for first years. Nonetheless, I personally don't feel like I'm missing out, but I doubt this to be the general sentiment.