In one of my previous blogs, I mentioned that due to the pandemic, clubs and societies have been finding creative ways to maintain active in a remote environment. Throughout the year, my A Cappella group – The Scopes have been searching for creative way to release content throughout the year. This includes releasing different music videos throughout the past two terms, while also engaging in different social sessions with other A Cappella groups around the UK.
After not being able to see one another for more than a year, we are now finally able to rehearse outdoors together and sing live for the first time with our new members.
There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought new challenges. Among these is a complete upheaval of the education system. In years gone by the university application process had been largely predictable. I had taken this for granted during my time. You applied via UCAS with your GCSE grades, wrote a personal statement, sat any admissions tests, took interviews if necessary and received offers or rejections based upon them. Then you sat your A-Level exams and hoped you got the grades needed to meet your offer requirements on results day. I’m not saying the process wasn’t stressful or hard work, and I certainly did my fair share of complaining, but compared to the situation now I realise we had it easy.
A bit over a year ago, our campus has completely shut down. It’s been quite a stressful situation with lots of changes and uncertainty. Lots of countries around the world have started their lockdowns much earlier while we have kept coming to work for considerable time longer. I was working on a few ambitious experiments and finally started gathering some results for my PhD. And then, almost out of the blue, the university shut down within just a few days.
The university actually shut down slightly earlier than the national lockdown came. I received a special permission from the head of the department to finish my running experiments.
With exam season creeping around the corner once again, I was reminded of the situation we were in this time last year. When the national lockdown was implemented in March, I had to pack my bags and return home abruptly a week before the Easter break was due to start. Rather naively, at that point in time I expected the situation to blow over soon enough and that we’d be back at the end of April to sit our exams. Obviously, I was horrifically wrong but thankfully the college had better foresight. Within a week or so we were emailed to say that all of our exams would be conducted remotely, on an online platform, and were to be open book.
As we are in our third lockdown here in the UK, most of us have been accustomed to the new virtual life and have found many ways to keep ourselves occupied and productive during these long hours at home. Adapting has not been the easiest for me and even though I am pretty much an introvert, I am not capable of changing my lifestyle in a blink of an eye. That is also the reason why it took me much longer than others to finally decide to return back to Malaysia last academic year, as I needed time to accept that the rest of the academic year would be conducted virtually.
Since the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, forcing the country to a standstill, remote working has become a feature of my degree to varying extents. My third term of first year was purely online (including what should have been my first hospital placement) which I undertook from my family home. Since the start of second year, the college has adopted a ‘multi-mode’ learning strategy encompassing elements of remote and face to face learning. Needless to say, it looks likely that remote learning will be here to stay for the foreseeable future so I thought I’d share a few of my reflections in this blog post.
During this pandemic, we’ve very explicitly seen the impact of COVID-19 on our entire population – whether that’s through contracting the virus itself to having our freedom of movement and choice restricted by things involving lockdown and border control. I write this to say that through the past year, we’ve all been affected. In line with this logic, our actions also affect one another, to a great extent. There’s not been more of a plain example in my mind whereby we can help human kind through our own actions. Basic respect of social distancing, masks on and adhering to social gathering restrictions will create massive impact in collective efforts.
Let’s be completely honest with ourselves. 2020 has been one wild ride.
I can still remember those days vividly. That one Friday night when I found out that my final year lab project has been suspended. That one Saturday morning when I found myself staring at the empty shelves at the supermarkets, dumbfounded by the whole toilet paper panic-buying fiasco. And finally, that one Sunday morning, where little did I expect myself to be buying a flight ticket four hours before the plane took off (well I have my fair share of last-minute stories, but none of them at this level).
Repeatedly from notices on radio stations to news channels and advertisements on public transport, the Coronavirus has been almost impossible to escape our attention. After a while, this can easily verge on becoming all consuming within our minds and rather than staying informed, we’ve become distracted. The lockdown in particular couldn’t have isolated some communities more and as a means of attempting to rekindle social interaction, we’ve relied on the phone. If there had ever been more of an opportunity for social media to blow up – it would be now. In line with this there is urgency to be wary and balance the enjoyment of scrolling through TikToks with then suddenly spending 2 hours on an app at only 9 o’clock in the morning.
As I’m writing this blog now, I am sitting in one of the tutorial rooms on the sixth floor of the City and Guilds building in Imperial. Normally, this is where I would be working on my tutorial sheets with my fellow course mates, and the whole room would be filled with ideas. But now because of the pandemic, I am here alone in this room with my own thoughts. Walking around campus now feels completely different, as I have seen more people here in normal weekends as compared to what I see now. Most of the shops are closed, but the library still remains open as long as everyone practices social distancing.