I never thought I’d be completing part of my degree at home; true, there are the odd assignments to finish and submit over the Christmas period every year, but in my third year doing my undergraduate degree I have been to lectures in person, never partaking in one online.
Then, cue the global pandemic.
For six months, I tried to carry on learning 140 miles away from the city I had grown to know for three years, with every intention to come back soon, to see people in the new academic year.
Which isn’t happening.
Though I don’t class as someone who is “high risk” of catching COVID-19, I have several medical conditions which I feel are increasing factors. So, it was with a heavy heart that my family and I decided I would study away from campus for at least Semester One this year.
But how am I coping? It’s week two of the new semester of teaching, but just
… to be honest, it’s hard.
I’m the kind of person who is used to, and prefers, to revise alone. I can’t stand the library revision spots, I have to be comfortable with background noise and not constantly aware of how much I am distracting other people. In my own flat, I am perfectly able to squirm, sneeze and mumble to myself at my expense.
With the house left to my brother and I most of the day, it’s calming, relaxing and I can just sit down, get on with lectures and reading; it’s that ability to just switch off to the world and get going without worrying about being asked to do stuff that is the reason why my most productive hours are 10pm-3am … there’s just nobody to distract me, and I work best like that!
But some of my lectures continue on after when my parents return from work. Just because it’s their end of the day does not mean it is mine. I feel less immersed in the content being discussed, more conscious about the points I’m bringing up, almost waiting to be interrupted or asked to do something.
When I am, or I’m taken away from reading, it takes me hours to get back into the mindset again.
At least when I had my own studio flat in the previous academic year I could just not attend socials or take an evening to myself if I wanted to maintain the mindset of productivity. But here I cannot.
But I’m selling my family short.
Despite everytihng, my mental health is the best it has been in months. Last year I had felt so alone, even though I had more societies, more reason to leave my bed than ever.
I’m no longer locking myself away for a weekend with nothing but a 5 minute phone call as my social interaction for the day; I’m not waiting six weeks for a Sunday roast or for a cuppa from mum. It’s doing far more good for me than any attempt at a first-class assignment that means stressing for days.
I really miss my friends, and there are some experiences in Southampton that I just can’t get in my village in the West Midlands. I can’t drive, so it’s not like I can head off to a library on a whim – my nearest one is central Birmingham. I can completely rely on the internet for learning, if I don’t have the books already. No archery training to race off to after Thursday lectures, no Friday night quizzes or a trip to West Quay on a whim.
Thankfully, I have a wonderful Personal Academic Tutor at university, who in a meeting this week said that if I were feeling burnt out at all, or struggling, to let her know and we’d come up with an action plan. It’s still awkward for me to approach her, but I’m thankful that I have the option for when I need it.
Ultimately, it is early in the semester, and anything could happen in the time until Christmas, or even the Summer. Lectures still continue, and I will continue to adapt to this new ‘normal’ way of teaching. But whatever happens, I know that I have a team of people (human or adorable pets) on my team powering me through it.
Even if I don’t get that First, I will still feel like I have achieved something by adapting.