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.
In case you are new to this space – hi, I’m Bianca. In the final term of my MSc Management degree at the point of writing. The workload’s tough (would even dare say it has been way more intense than my Biochemistry degree), and you can imagine me as a swan paddling hard beneath the waters to stay afloat whilst trying my absolute best to appear like everything’s going fine on the surface.
Nah I’m joking. I can be more of a sinking ship at times.
But as much as how hectic and messy my life probably sounds like, I thought of sharing a little bit about how I try to introduce order (and calm) amid the chaos.
Medicine is not always a using a stethoscope and learning anatomy. I think a lot of people have the perception that that is all we do for the entirety of the degree. For the summer term of my 2nd year, I am doing a CRI module which stands for Clinical Research and Innovation, in which students complete different research opportunities and we come together at the end to share our experiences at our individual placements.
I am fortunate to be at the Parkinson’s UK Brain Bank at Imperial’s campus next to Hammersmith Hospital. I still have a few days left here but I was excited to tell you about it.
I tried to start a diary at least five times in my life.
I can’t quite remember why, but I’m willing to bet that it was most probably because I drew a lot of inspiration from the Diary of Anne Frank. They all failed, miserably, in the sense that I tend to either (1) forget to write a paragraph after a week or two since getting started, or (2) I’m just a perfectionist and I often find myself cringing at my own work ten minutes after writing.
That clearly went well.
But if I were to look back at those years after spending some time “growing up”, I guess the mistake I (again, probably) have made is that I was trying to write a diary not exactly for myself, and therefore, it became hard for me to sustain that habit over a long period of time.
With our second-year exams well and truly over, this week we had been timetabled several sessions entitled ‘Medical Skills Kitchen.’ I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was slightly confused by this in the first instance. This confusion further increased when we received an email informing us that we would require two potatoes, two carrots, two bananas and one courgette to take part in these sessions as well as telling us to pick up a ‘kit’ after our last exam. However, when I actually read the session description in full, this confusion was soon replaced by excitement.
The ‘Medical Skills Kitchen’ is a course co-created by medical and culinary professionals enabling us to develop our practical skills, in preparation for third year, from the comfort of our own kitchens.
It is strange seeing familiar faces in my grocery store. The lady who works there on Tuesdays lives on my street and I haven’t seen her at the till in months. I met my best friend for her birthday, after having to postpone two of my other friends’ as they were during stricter periods of lockdown. I see people sitting with their dogs outside cafes, drinking lattes and reading books. Everyone shyly coming out of cocoons to visit the world again. There is traffic and train delays and everything is slowly coming back to normal.
I just finished my last summative exam for the academic year (but still one last summer assessment left ☹), and I am feeling a little listless before the summer term starts up.
You’ve selected Imperial as your firm choice (great choice), but what comes next? Ah yes- applying for accommodation. I still remember how anxious I felt when faced with my ‘Accommodation Hub’ portal trying to decide which 5 halls of residence to apply to. The gravitas of this decision really got to me. After all, the hall I lived in was likely to influence every aspect of my first year experience- the friends I made, my day to day routine, the part of London I would spend the most time in. To an extent, I was right. I couldn’t imagine spending first year in any other halls of residence and, if I had, I suspect my life would have been markedly different.
Ever heard of “the hustle”? Maybe you could try picturing this…
You wake up at 6.30 am despite feeling both mentally and physically exhausted from a long hard yesterday. You check your email for work updates on your phone before (and even after) brushing your teeth and getting dressed. You then rush over your breakfast (if a single cup of expresso counts as one) and head straight over to your university campus, where you spend the entire day working through lectures, revising intensely in between classes, followed by drowning yourself in extracurricular activities that you are participating in for the sake of having something that looks good on your CV.
After a year of remote learning, it feels weird that the first time I am conducting any physical activities in college is during the summer break. Earlier in the year, I decided that for this summer break, I want to venture into research and development, to be able to gain more technical knowledge while ensuring that my summer break remains fruitful while I stay in London. Therefore, I have decided to sign up for a UROP.
A UROP stands for Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme. Through this programme, undergraduates get to work on different research projects with different professors focusing on different areas of research.
The pandemic has greatly shifted the way we learn and the way we are assessed. GCSEs have been cancelled to reduce the risk of spreading the virus and classes have been shifted to an online setting for most of the year too. With the limited amount of physical interaction, we have had with our peers and our teachers, students all around the world have found themselves with an extra task of adapting to the new learning setting on top of keeping up with their studies.
University life has been greatly shifted as well. The Imperial campus has been closed for most of the year apart from the central library.