Abigail Ackerman, Research Associate, Department of Materials

Celebrating our community during COVID-19

“The wardening teams across all halls have reacted exceptionally to the crisis. My students are particularly upset that we no longer can do Sunday breakfasts!”

I came to Imperial five and a half years ago to start my PhD in the Department of Materials, and am now a Research Associate in Corrosion. In my first year here, I also started as a subwarden in Wilkinson Hall. Since then, I have become an Assistant Warden at Parson House and Pembridge Gardens, living onsite at Parsons House. Other than the Boathouse, Parson House is the smallest of all of the Imperial halls, with only 42 residents. This means that we create an incredibly tight knit community within the hall, by weekly Sunday breakfasts and other activities such as theatre trips and pizza nights.

The outbreak of COVID-19 had a large effect of the way we warden, and how we still form those communities in halls. It is especially important during this term, as the pressure of exams has a real impact on the mental wellbeing of undergraduate students. The wardening teams across all halls have reacted exceptionally to the crisis. My students are particularly upset that we no longer can do Sunday breakfasts!

We have had to adapt our regular in person contact with students to become virtual, though still maintaining their College support system. In my own hall, we have a newsletter with recommended Netflix shows, recipes and different hobbies to try out, and we have continued to provide information about the virtual support services available from College to ensure that our students don’t feel alone during this crisis. Larger halls have organized online gaming servers, and virtual pub quizzes over Zoom to keep bringing the halls community together. This not only keeps the sense of community active, but provides some much needed relaxation from studying.

The wardens themselves also keep regular contact with each other via Teams, providing ideas and resources to keep the communities alive and ensuring that the wardening teams themselves are supported. One of the hardest things for a warden is to not have students in their hall. I miss them terribly!

Outside of work, I have been busying myself by learning lots of new hobbies. I am a part of the College’s Musical Theatre Society, who put together a virtual choir and released a video, and we regularly watch musicals together over Zoom and Watch2Gether. Within my research group we use Teams to have weekly coffee mornings, and drinks on a Friday to catch up. I have Type 1 diabetes, so was expecting to isolate for a long while. I started a YouTube channel to document this journey, but unfortunately I was struck down with COVID-19 in the second week of isolation, and became very ill so instead of documenting new hobbies, I documented my illness instead!

Through this time my friends and colleagues at Imperial provided exceptional support, and my students in halls even did my food shopping for me whilst I was isolating. I am thankfully recovering well, and am so proud of how all the students are coping through this time.

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