2020 has been a challenging year in many ways. One way in which Covid affected me personally, was the disruption of my third and final year at University. University is stressful enough without all the additional challenges Coronavirus managed to present.
On the 14th March, all Leeds students received an email informing us that after the Easter break there would no longer be face to face teaching or labs. Within the next few days, we were then informed by the end of the week all learning would be online.
This meant that lab projects I had been working on would come to an abrupt end and results would not be able to be collected, that the whole university campus would be completely closed and teaching and examinations would be completely different to previous years. This was concerning and upsetting for me because I felt I had been robbed of my last few months in Leeds, a city I love.
Pre – Covid, I had been working on an exciting project in the university labs genetically modifying plants, however this had to come to an end with the university deciding to close the labs until further notice. Labs was an aspect of my course I had a love-hate relationship with, but by third year I was really getting the grasp of the techniques we had learned. Labs was also a unique way of seeing theory in practice and learning in a visual way which could not be done online. I was disappointed that I was not able to see the results of my work however safety had to come first.
With the unsettling situation regarding Covid, I decided it would be best for me to move home for the rest of the academic year. Even though I would have loved to stay in Leeds for me, I felt safer being with my family in these uncertain times. The transition to online learning was pretty easy with recorded lectures from previous years being uploaded online as well as weekly Q&A sessions to ensure all content was understood. All lectures from university are recorded anyway in case you have to miss a lecture or want to use it for revision purposes, so I was comfortable before online learning was introduced on how to access online lecture materials.
I preferred doing online exams, because it took the stress out of having to do loads of revision and meant focusing on writing a coursework style essay. I was relieved that the faculty of biology had decided to take an approach to exams I was familiar with, but each module also provided sample answers to ensure everyone was confident in what they had to do. Having my notes available made me feel that I was being examined more on my understanding of the topic and my written ability rather than my ability to recall facts. The university offered a ‘safety net’ so if you preformed significantly worse in online exams, they would not be taken into account to ensure covid did not affect your final grade.
Even though graduating in 2020 had not been what I had expected, the University provided lots of resources and support for their students. For example, I had group meetings with my dissertation group and one to one meetings with my personal tutor each week where we would have a catch up on how we were dealing with Covid and what the future would look like beyond uni. This was done via zoom.
It was also important to check in on friends – not all my friends moved home before the lockdown, and not all of them were thrilled to be moving home. The social aspect of ‘typical’ university life was lost, however me and my friends were still able to stay in regular contact with zoom pub quizzes as well as having an online surprise party which took very careful planning! I liked having new and exciting ways to connect with my friends, but I have to admit that it wasn’t quite the same as seeing them in person.
The university also held regular sessions for students to join to hear the latest updates from both the government and the implications for the university. During this very unsettling time, I felt the university really did care about me and was doing all it could to ensure I was awarded the grade I deserved. I think Covid has given students a chance to experience university in a different way and although this is an uncertain time uni is still something that can be enjoyed.
If Covid-19 and my experience with university has taught me anything, it has been to be resilient. Finding a job in 2020 was something I really struggled with, but with each rejection I learned more about what kind of job I actually wanted and how to improve on interview technique. I think it also taught me to be patient, the right opportunity will present itself so don’t settle for something you don’t want or wont enjoy. I was lucky enough to work at Sainsbury’s until I found a graduate role and would recommend taking this approach to anyone – it’s better to earn a bit of money while job hunting rather than accepting a role you won’t be happy in. I was also able to gain experience volunteering at my local zoo that I may not have got the chance to do if not for the pandemic changing how the rest of 2020 looked.
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