On-Campus Open Days

Being a student at the mercy of Miss Corona

"But most of all we have the ability to adapt and overcome at little to no notice. We are the class of 2020 that graduated from the school of studying in a pandemic. We are a part of history and for that we should be proud of ourselves."

Cheryl Poynton Cole, 2nd year BA (Hons) Creative Writing student

When students across the UK submitted their UCAS application with hope for their desired settings, little did they know that a global pandemic would take charge of their university experience.

When I started my journey as a BA Creative Writing student in September 2019, I could not have been more excited for what the future held. I was filled to the brim with a fresher’s buzz of apprehension. I simply could not wait to be in a creative haze of writing and discussing. In the beginning everything looked as it should. I would complete the compulsory three years, do the best I could and finish up with a glittering graduation. Simple, I thought. I was ready to follow the three-year plan.

On March 23rd, 2020, the government announced that social distancing was a legal requirement. This marked the beginning of months of disruption and upheaval to all educational institutions across the UK.  As university students dispersed to their lockdown bases, the reality that the days of mingling with peers and pulling pot noodle all-nighters in the library were perhaps a thing of the past. Life was drastically about to change. All we could do was hold on tight. I said a socially distanced goodbye to my friends, with a gut wrenching feeling that things would not look ‘normal’ for a very long while.

The impact of the national lockdown led to the transition of university courses being taught across online platforms with an interim of blended learning, between restriction lifts. Almost overnight, students had the almighty task of adapting to learning in a way they had not expected or even prepared for.

We threw ourselves into a new way of learning and for the most part managed to successfully produce good grade worthy work. There are many pro’s to learning in a home environment. Working from your bed with no commute and the luxury of being able to access lectures and materials as and when needed, seemed to be a dream scenario. It was in this latest lockdown that I learned that having a physical presence on campus prior to Miss Corona’s arrival, was better for my mental and physical health.

The benefits of being on campus became apparent to me when I realised that being in a seminar room surrounded by people actively interacting was far more important than I had initially thought. The skill of being able to read the room, the response of our fellow students and teaching staff instilled in us the confidence to speak out. When faced with a panel of blank screens, except for the lecturer, I have felt less inclined to ask the questions I would normally in a face-to-face scenario. There is a distinct feeling of social absence in the presence of online learning.

The impact of long periods of isolation and the loss of the social aspect of university life has left many students feeling less emotionally supported and alone. This has created further stress and anxiety ultimately impacting on their learning.

University is often a first taste of true independence.  For many losing their independence before finishing their first year has left them grieving for an experience or graduation they simply did not get.

Studies show that 70% of students have worries and concerns about how the pandemic will academically affect them and their long-term employment opportunities. Alongside the pressure of making the grade, many are still facing financial hardship. With an increase in job loss, coupled with contracts binding them to continue to pay for housing they cannot use, it is not surprising there is a decline in student mental health.

During the past twelve months there have been times that I have questioned the timing of the pandemic and my application to study. I feel that I am halfway out to sea, too far to swim back and too far from the shore, with no lifeboat in sight. I have doubted my ability and my commitment. In these challenging times, I have come to the conclusion that it is best to just keep swimming.

Throughout all that the pandemic has thrown at the average student there is something positive to be taken from this unprecedented time. What better way to show case to future employers, than to have completed our studies during a global pandemic? During such times we have unknowingly gained various life skills and a resilience like never before. We have the ability to motivate ourselves whilst working in less-than-ideal environments without our colleagues. With libraries closed we have taught ourselves to be creative with less resources and materials. But most of all we have the ability to adapt and overcome at little to no notice. We are the class of 2020 that graduated from the school of studying in a pandemic. We are a part of history and for that we should be proud of ourselves.