As is the case for most people across the world, life as we know it has stopped. For students across the world, the unsettling situation we find ourselves in can feel even more uncertain. Not just the ambiguity around life right now, but the anxiety running through their minds of, how will this affect my future?
Students have worked tirelessly on their degree, pushing themselves to achieve academically, personally, within sport, societies, and wider University life. Although there are arguably far 'worse' situations and things to be focusing on - it's important to put everything into proportion. For most students, as soon as Universities announced they were closing, it became a ghost town. No goodbyes, no celebrations, no last night out, nothing. Going from living with friends, seeing course mates every day, sports training, societies... to suddenly losing part time jobs, being told to get home if and when you can, to continue accessing work online, not be seeing close friends anymore, and awaiting news on exams and the practicalities of it all. For students in their final year in particular, this unknown phase is very impactful and daunting.
You may not be handling this change as well as you thought you would, but give yourself time. Take time to adjust to this new way of life and routine. Remember that life is still about balance and give yourself a break. Hold onto the memories; the chapters that were full of joy, adventure, excitement and love but sometimes, also disappointment, regret and sadness.
We have spoken to 3 students in their first, second and final year of University who have given a brief account of their experience. They have also provided some helpful ways to approach this situation and positive ways to cope and make the most of this time.
First Year Student
Arriving at Loughborough University in September 2019, I had many expectations of what Uni life would entail for me. Playing sport, meeting new people, initiations and trying to establish how to stay awake in my post-freshers 9AM lectures. I would have regarded my first year as pretty ‘typical’ - I have met some incredible people who will no doubt be friends for life and participated in many things I never would have dreamt of previously; it’s been a blast. However, in January 2020, at the halfway point of my first year, we first heard of a new viral outbreak 5,495 miles away, in Wuhan, China. Around 2 months later I am sat at home, my first year as I knew it, finished and a shroud of uncertainty hanging above me. This is my account of how the virus has affected me, and some ways I am trying to come to terms with the current situation.
First of all, I’d like to put it out there that I am one of the fortunate ones. I live in a small village where I can get away from the hustle and bustle, and in my immediate family I have nobody who might be considered as ‘vulnerable’ to the virus. Equally being a first year student, the effect is much less than for say my sister, a final year fashion student, who needs to complete her collection of outfits using equipment we don’t have access to at the moment. However, the current situation has still affected me in numerous ways.
Listening to lectures remotely isn’t ideal. A minor problem which does just make me smile, is hearing the lecturers. When they walk away from the microphone, they go incredibly quiet, so I proceed to turn up the volume to hear them, only for them to come back over to the mic and shout to my whole household about the effects of the Ming Empire in China. The uncertainty over exams is making it difficult to know what I need to study. In addition, Uni closing off the back of 4 weeks of industrial action has meant I have had interrupted teaching for the last 6 weeks. For one of my modules I have had 3 lectures, and the impact of such a lack of teaching will undoubtedly ripple throughout the rest of my degree.
Besides academia, my whole life, like many others, has been put on hold. All sports = cancelled. Booked holidays = cancelled. Summer plans = postponed. My birthday = a day of puzzles and far too much Netflix.
Looking at it this way, however, is not healthy and is beside the point. People are dying in swathes. After this global pandemic has finally been beaten away, we all will know someone who has lost their life because of this invisible killer. It is important to remember this and do all we can to follow the government protocol to limit the devastation.
Go back to basics.
Find enjoyment through reading a book or sit outside for an hour and take in the blossoming environment around you.
Re-arrange your room whilst listening to your favourite music.
Use your hour of exercise by going for a walk or cycle.
Cook a new daring recipe or try learning a new language.
But most importantly still talk to people. We are lucky to live in a world where self-isolation doesn’t mean what it would have done for our parents’ generation. If you are struggling with the doom and gloom in the news, call a trusted friend and talk to them. Even if your friend doesn’t know what’s going to happen or what advice to give, simply having the chat will make you feel better.
Finally, remember we will get through this and when we do, remember what Mr Marley said: “Every little thing, is gonna be alright”.
Second Year Student
Although the corona virus has been disruptive to my life, as is the case for most students, I personally feel quite lucky in that I’m not hugely affected due to being in my second year and living in England, where I study; so it wasn’t too difficult for me to get back home. The one ‘unknown’ for me at the moment is my academic work and how I will be assessed in the Summer. To combat this, I’ve focused on what I can control. I will have content to learn and I will be assessed in the Summer. By doing this, I can then work backwards and timetable my learning to suit my needs to allow me the best chance to perform well in the Summer.
How I’m managing:
1. If you have a passion, continue to do it
For me, this is rugby and this can be a really good opportunity to train individual skills/setting aside time for physical workouts etc. The 10,000 hour rule = We’ve got a lot of hours to spend on something we want to be better at
2. Control the controllable
- This is individual to everyone. I’m focusing on learning the content that I’ve already been given and making sure I know this as well as I can.
- I’m trying to manage my time to give myself some routine. For me, this is working 9-5 (ish) and having time in the morning/evening to switch off
3. Preparing for the uncontrollable
We pretty much know now that we won’t have traditional exams in the summer. Until I get the email from University (latest 27th March) I can’t control this, so I need to just concentrate on what I can do for the meantime!
4. Staying in touch
- A couple of my course mates (actually just friends) have agreed to FaceTime once or twice a week to catch up and talk through our academic stuff. We’re hoping this can make up for the communication we would’ve had if we were on campus.
- Setting aside time to call loved ones. With my grandparents isolated, as a family we’ve decided to call daily and give them the opportunity to speak to someone too.
5. Keeping my distance
- Only checking news updates that are factual and I feel are required - such as the Government daily briefings.
- Adhering to social distancing and isolation to avoid the virus spreading.
Final Year Student
The past few weeks have been very chaotic and uncertain. Many students have been feeling stressed out, demotivated and confused. I am a finalist and felt confused about this situation myself. Will I have my exams? How will I complete my deadlines under such a stress? Will I have my graduation ceremony? Although a graduation ceremony is promised, I believe it cannot be guaranteed. However, on the other hand, my university has tried their best to accommodate everyone’s needs and provide ongoing support. For example, all of my deadlines including my dissertation have been moved to May, rather than April. My exams have been cancelled and they will not affect my final grade. My academic tutor is providing online bookable appointments through FaceTime or Skype. All of these changes have made me feel more at ease and I know that these are some of the changes that most other universities are also putting in place right now.
With many things happening in our daily lives already, the COVID-19 situation for many can affect their mental health and general well-being. So for me, the following coping strategies are helping to maintain a positive and clear mind, and minimise stress.
1. Neglected hobbies
Right now is the perfect time to get back in touch with your old hobbies, which can encourage your positive attitude. Whether it’s drawing, reading, writing, cooking or even learning new things, most of us have the ability to do these things, now that our daily schedules aren’t as hectic.
2. Quality time with family
With the Government advising us to stay at home and work from home, we are able to spend the quality time with our families that we might have missed out on before. You may even learn something new about your sibling, your parent or yourself. We need to show gratitude for having people that love us around us.
3. Focus and concentration
Usually, when we have a lot of things to do on a daily basis, we may not invest as much in the thing that we should be prioritising. This can often lead to minor/major mistakes and confusion on what actually needs to be done. With the new Government guidelines, we have the ability to work and study from home. This enables us to plan our time ahead and organise our workload. It also encourages you to work on one deadline at a time, increasing the quality of the final product.
4. Healthier lifestyle
With limited ability to leave our house, we are more likely to only shop for essentials and not order takeaways as often as we normally would, especially with many restaurants closing. Next to a healthier diet, we should also incorporate a form of a daily exercise, whether it’s a home workout, a run or a walk. Living healthier will make you feel healthier, which means you will adopt more of a positive attitude regardless of the situation we are currently facing globally.
All the strategies listed above, can essentially play a part in your self-development. However, you can also do this by using your free time to learn a new language or by reading a self-help book, which you feel you can relate to. You may even wish to try meditation or improve your sleeping pattern to make the most out of your day. This is a little step towards a healthier mindset, which can have a long-term positive impact on your general well-being and mental health.
I hope everyone follows the Government guidelines and stays safe! Maintain positivity and be kind.
Student mental health is important all of the time but following on from #UniMentalHealthDay earlier this month, we want to help support you during this time in particular 💙