I think we can all agree these are strange times, and that the university experience we’re all having right now might not be reflecting what we originally imagined when we applied to university. I’m an English literature and drama student; the other day, I found myself in the loft/converted office space at home, wearing a blazer and full hair and make-up above and pyjama bottoms below. My phone balanced on a stack of books while I adjusted the ring-light borrowed from my sister. This is the way my classmates and I are filming the play we are putting together as part of our module. I had to stop, look around and think; ‘This is my drama course now’. I am sure each person has had that moment, looking around their set up of working and studying at home and having to laugh at the situations they find themselves in. We have to laugh or we’ll cry.
When I applied to university I had romantic images of wandering around the beautiful campus of Greenwich, reading novels, attending lectures in big amphitheatres, and engaging in conversations about books and favourite authors. I imagined creating shows and plays and performances in a theatre purely used for Greenwich drama students, working and experimenting with new people that have had all different types of experience and who have come together for the same passion of theatre. I imagined the energy of getting into a shared creative space and bounce ideas off each other to make something unique and exciting. Sitting in the loft of my house surrounded by pieces of costume and talking to my phone was certainly not what I imagined.
But we’re doing what we can.
As a second year student I know I am lucky to at least have had the first year of experiencing this; grabbing a coffee to get to know fellow classmates, or going on nights out and rolling out of bed the next day, hungover and complaining about the 9am lecture (a right of way for most university students) or in my case going on theatre trips nearly every week to see new and exciting plays in London. I miss this. What we’re now missing out on is more than physically being in a space to listen to a lecture and attend a seminar; it’s the walk from the lecture to the seminar where you can chat with different people, ask about their weekend and connect with new friends. It’s the spontaneity of suddenly deciding with your flatmates to walk to a local bar, grab a cocktail and have a chat about your day. Or randomly chatting to someone in the library because you sat down and exchanged a smile, or reaching out and having a new experience through joining a society. It’s the little moments, as well as the big ones, we’re missing out on.
To some level, we have all accepted this new way of working, at least for now. I moved home before the announcement of lockdown 2.0, and have been working from home this month. Instead of walking through the bustle of Greenwich market, or along the Thames on a crisp, autumnal, sunny day, my morning walk to uni is now from bed, to kitchen, to desk. I sit and listen to lectures and then warn my family I am about to start a call so please: ‘Don’t disturb!’ We all have to muddle along together as we adjust to each other’s schedules and working lives.
Looking at the positives, this way of university may be easier. I don’t have to cook for myself like usual, or do all my food shopping, or any of my laundry. I again rely on my mum and dad when I’m at home because I guess this is what we’re used to. I also have the luxuries of home like a warm bubble bath, or cuddles with my dog…little things I miss in uni halls. I like to focus on what I do have and not what I’m missing out on, and we’re all in the same boat here! No one is being able to experience university like they initially imagined or planned to, so I’m here with you, trying to focus on the positive but understanding the feeling of missing out and time going by when we’re supposed to be somewhere we cannot currently be.
There are so many different circumstances students have to face at the moment, as we have all had to adapt to living and learning in ways that perhaps we didn’t sign up to when we first applied to, and started, university. I certainly wasn’t expecting to find myself calling friends from all over the country as I sit in a costume in front of my laptop with a makeshift set up of lighting and sound. Who knows how long this will last and for how long we must rely on technology to feel connected to our university communities. I certainly hope it won’t be too long until I can wander through the streets of Greenwich again, on my way to campus, to meet friends, to make new friendships and have new experiences, as this is also what university is all about. But for now, I guess we must stay involved in the ways we can, through Zoom and Microsoft Teams, through calls and meetings, through participating in seminars and signing onto societies. We’re all doing our best to reach out from our own individual places to keep connected throughout this time and we’re certainly all in this together.
By Maya Nardoni
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