A University Fresher...During a Global Pandemic?

4 October 2020


Since we were last here, a lot of stuff has gone down. Most notably, I started my degree! I can officially say I'm a university student now! 

Going to university has been something I'd always expected to do at some point in my life; I never really had a plan to go off, get a job, go on a gap year etc. Nevertheless, something I hadn't anticipated was beginning university during a pandemic. As expected, this never even crossed my mind. This year as a fresher, inevitably, is vastly different to the experiences of those who came before me. One hundred per cent of the week is based online, large-scale socialising is basically a no-go (seriously, where I am in the country, stricter lockdown rules have just been imposed) and, all in all, the experience so far been rather, well, subdued? Is that the right word? 

That first week, as a result, felt kind of lonely at times. I felt completely out of my depth. To be fair, I think it was the lack of work that made it this way, as my course only properly the following week, which gave me way too much time to think. But a lack of familiar faces, combined with a whole new living situation, was overwhelming for sure. I'm a pretty independent person, and you'd think that spending the last six months or so with relatively little face-to-face contact would have made this a little easier, no? But the whole thing just seemed to hit me like a tonne of bricks. I don't know what I was expecting - I'd said previously that I was going to go into this with zero expectations - but it wasn't to feel so, well, crappy, so early on. 

Okay, I realise as I'm writing this just how much of a pessimist I sound - it's not all doom and gloom, I promise. And there are many who definitely have it much worse than I do. It's just...different. Once that first week came to an end, things began looking up significantly; the following week flew by, and things were definitely a lot smoother. One reason for this is meeting more people, most of whom seem to think the same as me about most things. Everybody I have met so far, the people I live with, are super lovely. One thing I've realised in all of this is how much better I am at the 'independent living' thing than I thought. Granted, the extent of my cooking ability reaches using a pan and feeling like a sous chef, however it's definitely not been anywhere near as hard as I thought it would be. You never feel like you've truly reached adulthood, I realise, until you're enthused by the prospect of a Morrison's card. It's the little things, I guess. 

I guess I wanted to write this as a way of documenting my time as a fresher during the scariest, most unpredictable year in recent memory, so I can look back on it in a few years' time when, hopefully, we might have returned to some kind of relative normalcy (a word that I use with caution). In all honestly, to be able to say I did the first year/part of the first year of my Law degree purely online, and passed, is quite a feat in my books.

Having said this, was the world that we once recognised as 'normal', really the best place to be? I've been thinking a lot about this; I even wrote it all down in a post, one that never actually made it onto the blog. I've thought and, knowing me, overthought, all the things we took for granted before all of this; even the most mundane tasks have changed. Because, before everything changed, these things just were. It's not necessarily a bad thing that we took these things for granted; it just happened. And another thing I realised? We took them for granted because we simply didn't have the time to reflect and think of them as more than that. We've spent most of our lives on autopilot for so long that these things just became mundane. Standing within 6 feet of someone else? Routine. Squeezing past somebody in a store with narrow aisles? It happens. Shaking hands with somebody we've just met? Normal. These aspects of our lives that once were routine are things we now take with absolute caution, second-guess, or avoid altogether. 

There've been numerous occasions during all of this when I've heard of a desire to "get back to normal" and "get going again". In reality, we want to move forward, hope a vaccine is developed so we can move on, but we're unsure of how to go about it. But maybe this year, as brutal and unpredictable as it has been, was needed. Maybe we're finally starting to wake up. After all, was 'normal' ever always a good thing? With hindsight, I can confidently say 'no' to this.  Vitally, this pandemic has made us all too aware of the extent of our privilege, whether this is racial, sexual, social, gender-based and/or financial. It's highlighted all kinds of flaws within the society we live in. And this has made us uncomfortable. But these things need to be recognised, we need to be made uncomfortable in this way, otherwise progress can never be made. Now we've had the time to think about what is really, truly vital in the most uncertain of times, it's hard to imagine we can ever go back.

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