Student life in lockdown; a statement that appears to me as a complete contradiction. Why? Well perhaps it’s the aspects of student life that are no longer within our reach in this current situation. Our norm went from running to the bus stop to frantically opening “Teams” minutes before our virtual lessons. That is when it began, for my peers and I, the freedom to decide. Suddenly our education weighed more in our hands than it may have previously done.
Without intending to be allusive, I’d like to consider a perspective. The perspective that, the way a student has been affected by such major changes is determined by their own experience prior to lockdown. For some, student life pertained to the spaces they had access to: the library, the classroom or even the dining room. For many it was the communication they shared with others, most evidently teachers or other students. For me, student life found itself rooted in my ability to engage with content with the help of my teachers.
In a matter of a week these facets of student life shifted from normal to inaccessible. Despite the uncertainty that came with this, the lockdown has presented a crucial side of education: that being independence. Even though I believed myself to be an independent learner, I underestimated the impact of lacking the structure provided to me by my sixth form. Like many of my fellow students, I had to create my own structure. I am fortunate to live in a technological age, but it is important to consider how this was both beneficial and somewhat costing.
I initially felt as though the odds had been stacked against me. I had just come off crutches and was in the process of regaining strength in my, previously injured, knee. I was overjoyed to receive an offer from Cambridge to study English, and yet even from the whisper of a lockdown, things began to feel beyond my control.
Being of high risk I began isolation a few days earlier than my peers. In some ways I feel that this gave me an advantage in establishing a routine. In all honesty it was not always smooth sailing, from talking with peers and reflecting myself it appeared that many of us felt unnerved by how our futures would be affected. Amid the rapid progression of Covid-19 CTK St Mary’s did their best to accommodate for the new way in which everyone would be living.
One thing I am grateful for is the sustained communication between myself and my sixth form. The lockdown did not bring with it only bleak misfortune, it also brought opportunity. When I sought to create the structure, I felt I needed, I found myself swayed by the wave of ‘productivity’ presented to me by social media. This admittedly introduced a pressure that I had never felt so heavily before: a pressure to ‘do something.’ I found myself overwhelmed and confided in a fellow student that shared this feeling. Taking a step back I realised I was not the only one and that there was more opportunity for me than there was sadness, as there has been for others.
With such a realisation, I found myself encouraged. All the while I was still receiving the most encouraging prayer points and messages from the CTK chaplain. This week coupled with a beautiful picture of scenery I was sent a wonderful email that encapsulated and simmered everything I had felt: “Be gentle with yourself, don’t judge.”
In this lockdown I have had the chance to hone my essay writing skills, work on strengthening my dancing abilities and sometimes just the peace of sitting down and reflecting on my relationship with God and embracing more of his word.
As much as I would like to be a bundle of motivational quotes, it seems that I connected more with myself when I did things that I enjoyed as opposed to trying avidly to be productive. Yes, education and hard work are important but not at the expense of anybody’s happiness or mental health.
I find the deepest encouragement in being grateful for the resources and support systems that I have. So, I encourage you also to try to see the light at the end of it all. My prayers and love go to those who have experienced the worst aspects of our current situation but remember this is not the end of your story or mine.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33