Written by Dawson La, Materials Science and Engineering (MEng)
Ten months ago, in October of 2022, I was nervous, scared and doubtful about what lay ahead. I was about to start my degree in Materials Science and Engineering as a first-year fresher. Throwing myself into the deep end wasn’t exactly something that my formerly shy and reserved self was used to doing. Looking back, I see an academic year full of self-development, challenges and plenty of fun! But what has this year taught me, and where am I now?
One of the first and most nerve-racking challenges I had to face was making friends.
In light of recent developments, I thought it’d be good to share some thoughts as an International Student here. The situation at home (Malaysia for me) and here in the UK seems to be developing at a similar pace, with numbers rising day after day. There are a lot of uncertainties at this moment, especially regarding borders; the possibility of a lock down both here and back home.
From all I can see, the expansive coverage by social media and traditional media in general, fear mongering is real and it’s undoubtedly spreading panic to the general public. What I’ve decided to do, is to limit the COVID-19 information that I am exposed to, on all my social media.
Welcome to Round 2 of the Imperial Survival Challenge! Getting back into the ‘zone’ after weeks of slacking off and chilling on the couch during Christmas break does take a lot (especially if you forgot how to write over Christmas :))
Start of Autumn Term
I remembered what the start of the Autumn term looked like. All the “freshers week” events, so-called ice-breakers, socials and “introduction” lectures to the various courses ran through my exhausted mind. The time I got to spend with new faces, exploring the city and attempting to sort out finances (clearly didn’t work for the first few weeks, thanks to my amazing cooking skills).
Time is a funny thing. As physics students, we learn that our most basic assumption of time is, in fact, true: its silent immutability, that cold, heartless pace of the clock, is a lie. Of course, time doesn’t actually run slower in a queue, when one minute feels like five, or run faster in an exam, when the last five minutes feel like one; spacetime is warped by inertia, not boredom. But even if this agreement between perception and reality is coincidental, the subject makes for some thinking.
I’m writing this from home, 14 days and 500 miles away from Imperial, and though there is much to celebrate about being back – not having to cook every meal, or being around people who actually know how to iron, or simply just being able to get up at noon without feeling guilty – there is equally a curious feeling of trying to peddle back lost time.
For those of you who don’t know me and I mean really don’t know me (anyone who has ever met me will now be rolling their eyes) I took a gap year. At school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was nearing the end of two highly turbulent years and the last thing I wanted to do, was have another three years of the same.
As a child of an accountant and a political activist it was presumed that I would go to university, so I applied at the same time as everyone else, filling my personal statement with platitudes about my love of pure learning and the importance of education and clicked the submit button.