While all our lives have changed beyond all recognition in the last couple of weeks, we feel particularly for those who are in crucial stages of their educational journey. We hear from Henry Skinner from King Edward’s School, who was due to take his GCSEs this summer, and from Ruby Bosanquet who is in the final stages of an MA in Creating Writing at Bath Spa University, about how they are coping with their changed circumstances
A few weeks
ago, as a 16 year old, GCSEs seemed to be the most central, important aspect of
my life so far. Indeed, I had been spending the best part of two years cramming
in endless reams of information, from the equation for acceleration, to
memorising 450 lines of Latin and Greek set text. And then suddenly, in what seemed
to be a throwaway comment from the Prime Minister on 18 March, it was gone.
Without warning, this enormous hurdle that I had been spending months preparing
to tackle was removed.
It was a
very strange feeling; like having a rug pulled out from under your feet,
leaving you off-kilter and not quite sure how to continue. I’m sure many must
think Britain’s young people to be ecstatic at this news, and whilst there is
certainly an element of relief, I know that I myself and many others are both
overwhelmed and frustrated. Unlike other years, we won’t have the satisfaction
of taking pen off paper in that final exam, going to prom and enjoying time
with each other, and making the most of a seemingly endless summer break. That
sense of accomplishment has been taken away from us. Moreover, there’s the
worry and uncertainty surrounding how we are to receive our grades; after all,
with mock exam results playing a key role in determining scores, it is likely
many people will end up disappointed.
Of course, I
don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining; in these difficult times, there are
obviously people in far worse situations, such as NHS workers, the vulnerable
and the elderly. I must also point out that there are many positives to this
situation. With so much free time on my hands, I have been able to invest more
effort into hobbies that, without quarantine, I may never have even discovered.
For example, for the past week I, as an avid drama student, have been taking
part in an online scriptwriting course supplied by the University of East
Anglia, through which I am not only developing invaluable skills, but have also
made connections and friendships with like-minded people all across the globe.
I’ve also managed to coax myself back into reading regularly, as well as
baking, cooking and working out using online videos.
key problem for me, one that I know many others to struggle with, is going so
long without being able to socialise with friends and extended family.
FaceTiming and social media seem to be the obvious solution, but even this is
not the same as being able to meet up for a chat or to watch a film. On the
other hand, I have been in contact with old friends whom I may never have
spoken with, rekindling past friendships and catching up on how people are
coping with current events.
So, what am I going to take from this situation? Well, personally, I think the message is clear: every negative has its positives, however small, and it’s important we focus on the brighter side as much as we possibly can. After all, this isn’t going to last forever, and we know that together, we are going to make it out on the other side.
weeks of strikes, I was finally about to start having lectures again when
Coronavirus hit. Overnight everything changed. Gone were the bus rides to
Corsham Court, gone was catching up over coffee in the café and gone was
writing in the library.
people on my Creative Writing Masters at Bath Spa University don’t live in
Bath. Instead, they commute from all over the country, which means I probably
won’t see any of them until I graduate in the winter. It’s a big change
from the group writing sessions and pub trips I had envisaged for the rest of
term. But, it’s easy to think and dwell on all the things I’m missing, when really
I am a lot luckier than most students. I don’t have exams, and my deadlines
haven’t changed. I’m not missing a well-earned graduation or all the fun that
comes after finishing exams in undergrad. My MA runs over the summer, so I while
I’m gutted about the cancellation of Glastonbury, I was expecting to spend most
of July and August inside anyway.
Surprisingly, I don’t really mind being online. I do miss the
chatty coffee breaks and saying ‘hi’ to peacocks on my way to workshops, and my
internet connection leaves a lot to be desired. But, so far the transition has
gone smoothly, people have learnt to use the chat function, mute their
microphones and we have even managed a quick virtual coffee break. It is tiring
to spend three hours glued to a screen, so my tutors have introduced more
frequent five-minute breaks which allow us to stretch our legs and grab a quick
cup of tea. Luckily
my tutors, on the whole, have been really good with the move to virtual
learning. They’ve been sending regular
emails giving advice on how to block out distractions, and offering five minute
chats whenever we need them. These mini motivation messages have helped grow a
support network across the MA, which is great to be part of.
it is Creative Writing, it is pretty easy to do in distance learning, as the
bulk of is spent on my own at my desk anyway, so no change there. My main
concern is that I have to keep my bedroom as tidy as possible and angle the
computer away from my ‘floordrobe’. One of my tutors even suggest we each do a
room tour, but as we’re all writers, I’m a little concerned my messy room might
make its way into someone’s novel as a symbol for millennial laziness. Being
online means an insight into everyone’s lives that you didn’t get sitting around
a table. Teeming bookcases, spouses
popping in, and an introduction to cats, chihuahuas, children and Chinese
ornaments – some of these show and tells are a lot more interesting than
I now technically have more time than ever to get on with university work, that
isn’t quite going to plan. Everyone is in the house again, all four of us
actually living together for longer than a few weeks for the first time in five
years. This means every time you leave your room, or, god forbid, try and work
downstairs, you get caught in conversation. You wanted a quick cup of coffee
and a scroll on Instagram, but suddenly you’re helping transfer tadpoles from
one pond to another or helping your parents set up a Zoom call. You might be
finally getting your teeth into some work when someone pops in with the newest
lockdown meme, or Tiktok, or query about proofreading an email. And if it’s not
your family, then it’s every form of social media out there. My phone has
honestly never felt more popular. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Houseparty,
Zoom. Friends who normally have busy lives and hectic jobs suddenly find
themselves stuck at home and with a lot more free time – which is great for me,
but less great for my degree.
I better tidy that floordrobe, mute my phone and get ready for the next