Our Marketing intern Simran Purewal shares her thoughts and feelings about how the current pandemic will affect her final year at university.
‘COVID-19 has left me with mixed emotions entering my final year at University’
On March 23rd, the government ordered a full-scale lockdown in the UK. At the time, I was still in Leeds living in my university house and a wave of panic overcame me as I did not know what this meant. Would I be allowed to travel back home? Would my parents get fined for coming to pick me up? I was clearly overthinking every possible scenario, but with all my friend’s panic leaving Leeds in a hurry, including those who lived abroad, I didn’t want to be left in Leeds alone! I had no car to go on essential food trips, and worst of all my housemates had gone back home to London. Living in the deep ends of Hyde Park on my own was far from ideal, as last year my house got robbed twice!
A few days after going into lockdown, my parents picked me up from Leeds (they didn’t get stopped) and off I went home. Adjusting to life back at home has taken a while, as I am used to having my own space and freedom at University. However, ‘freedom’ is now a thing of the past thanks to COVID. Working from home with my placement has also been quite difficult for me as I prefer to go into the office and get out of the house.
When reality hit
After a week of being at home, my emotions were all over the place! I was upset that I had to leave Leeds so early and wouldn’t get to see some of my friends for a long time, I was gutted that a lot of my plans had now been cancelled and I was feeling confused as to how this would affect my placement too. I was also worried about my Grandad as he lives with my family at home, and as an 86-year-old, he is classed as a high-risk/vulnerable person. At this point, I hadn’t even thought about how COVID would affect my final year as I was too caught up in what was going on in this strange time.
As the weeks have gone by, I have learnt to appreciate what I have right now and how fortunate I am compared to others who have been horribly affected by COVID-19. My worries about not seeing my friends and my plans for night outs and other social activities seemed so small as being in lockdown became the norm. Although I argue with my siblings most of the day, I am so lucky to have them as it means I have company and I’m not alone, which if I had stayed in Leeds would have drove me insane! I have managed to stay in touch with friends and family through multiple Zoom quizzes, Facetimes and chatting over social media, but there’s only so much social interaction I can do through a screen – I miss them all so much!
As we began entering the month of May, my University life back in Leeds seemed like a distant memory, and I was starting to get extreme cabin fever. The University had sent out only two emails regarding COVID-19 and how their teaching has drastically had to change. Teaching for first years had now been scrapped and they were automatically enrolled into the next year. Second years had all their exams cancelled but still had to complete some assignments. Final years and master’s students still had to complete assignments and dissertations, but their exams were now online. Whilst reading this email, I realised how lucky I was to have taken a year out for my placement and to have avoided being in final year. I can’t even begin to imagine the stress, confusion and anger my friends have been going through these past few months as their University life has abruptly come to an end.
The social impact
Before COVID-19 came along and brought the whole world to a stop, I was overly excited to be going back to University, even if it was my final year. I felt overwhelmed that all of my years in education would have led to that moment of me in my graduation gown and cap. I was genuinely looking forward to going to my lectures and seminars, learning and interacting with new people and being in that student atmosphere that a lecture hall is full of. The thought of roaming around campus in between my lectures, going into the student union and grabbing some food for lunch and bumping into friends I hadn’t seen since that last night out we had been on made me feel so happy!
I also wanted to join a new society in my final year, as I love the social side of University societies and it’s a great way to make new friends. There were so many places in and around Leeds that me and my friends wanted to visit, whether this was restaurants, bars, clubs, parks, walking routes etc that we hadn’t had a chance to explore in our previous years. Aside from seeing friends and going out, University gave me an opportunity to expand my CV through jobs such as being a course ambassador or applying for different schemes that the business school had to offer. All of these factors are what had made my University experience so important to me, and the fact that a lot of things I was looking forward to doing again were probably not going to happen has left me feeling extremely anxious and upset.
Things won’t be the same again
There are so many reasons for me and thousands of other students to be feeling abandoned because of COVID-19. I am afraid that I will never get to see some of my international friends again as well as those friends that have graduated this year and aren’t returning back to Leeds. I am concerned that the standard of teaching will drop if everything moves to online. How will this all work? How will my University be able to keep us students engaged through a computer screen? The lack of interaction will certainly have an effect on my ability to learn and to stay concentrated. I know how easy it will be for students to just miss their online lectures because they don’t have to get up out of bed and leave the house to go to University. Moreover, I am worried that libraries won’t be open for us to access, as this is where I work best to study for exams or to write my essays. There are so many distractions if I must do this at home, so I am afraid that my grades will be affected as a result. Teaching aside, the thought of having the ‘fun’ part of University stripped away from me for my final year breaks my heart. Not being able to go and have drinks in the Union or going to random house parties will be hard to adjust to.
We’re in it together
Having spoken to a lot of my friends, it is clear that we are all in the same boat and being there to support each other is all we can do right now! For most of us, the thought of applying for graduate schemes come autumn time is so daunting, given that the UK is going through a recession and competition will be even fierce than before. Assessment Centres will most likely be virtual, which is such a strange concept to even think about. How am I supposed to build rapport with potential future colleagues through Skype? I am mostly upset for my international friends, and the worry they must be going through. Having to leave Leeds so abruptly and flying back to their home countries, leaving most of their stuff behind must have been so scary. Most international students who were planning on returning to Leeds in September are now unsure on what to do. If all teaching does go online, then many of them won’t bother coming back. They already have to pay extortionate fees and on top of that rent. The idea of them coming back to Leeds just to stay inside their accommodation rooms most of the time seems pointless.
On the other hand, there are some perks if all teaching does go online. It means that I won’t have to leave the house for my 9am lectures (which I would always miss because that’s way too early for me), and I will be saving so much money by not going on nights out, buying unnecessary clothes and food. It will also give me and my friends a chance to spend quality time together, to maybe go on adventures around Yorkshire and cook more meals together instead of ordering food all of the time!
As the end of my placement is near and the time to start my final year comes closer, I am starting to think about what optional modules I will pick and what I will write my dissertation on. I suppose this is all I can do until the University decides what style of teaching they will adopt. The fact that me and my friends are going through the same thing puts me at ease, and gives me hope that even if my final year is all online, I can still try and make the most out of it and have the best possible time!
Our Marketing intern Simran Purewal shares her thoughts and feelings about how the current pandemic will affect her final year at university. ‘COVID-19 has left me with mixed emotions entering my final year at University’ On March 23rd, the government ordered a full-scale lockdown in the UK. At the time, I was still in Leeds […]
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