Written by BA Art History & Visual Culture and History student Niamh
For many of us now, Covid-19 and the lockdown are two words/ phrases that have become part of a our daily vocabulary and life. However, when the quick and abrupt lockdown was enforced back in mid March I was as a final year undergraduate student in the midst of my studies; writing essays, meeting my supervisor to talk about the all important third year dissertation and was reflecting on the last few months I would have in Exeter.
This was all quickly swept away from me and after lockdown was imposed I felt lost in a void of not knowing what to do or where to go. I returned to my family home leaving my life in Exeter and suddenly realising my time as a final year student was coming to an end. I had lots of university work still due in the easter holidays as well exams in May. I had to from somewhere find motivation to continue. As a third year I did not expect my last term and the exam period to be sat at home away from my independent life, my student house and my university friends. It was for myself, in the first few weeks hard to adjust and in all honesty not a pleasant experience. I felt I had no purpose, no motivation to continue my studies as graduation was now cancelled and no hope for seeing Exeter and my friends again. I know reflecting back on this early experience I may have been overthinking and added a touch of the dramatics. However, the feelings of helplessness I experienced were quickly subdued by the university and its support.
Tutors and academics from the onset of the pandemic adapted quickly to remotely support me through my remaining studies. I was able to arrange phone calls with my dissertation supervisor and attend Microsoft teams meetings with other tutors to address issues I may have been having with adapting to studying at home and writing my essays. Those who I spoke to were encouraging, understanding and inspiring as they reassured me that everything would be ok and that my studies plus grades would not be affected by these circumstances.
Another way the university supported me was through the consistent and great effort from the Student Guild and the university to implement a no detriment policy. This in effect gave all students a safety net towards work they would submit during the pandemic whilst at home. The fears of performing badly and being unable to study in a new environment were made a little easier by knowing that the university understood what current students were going through. On social media and through email, the university listened to the plethora of opinions, worries and suggestions that students offered which really felt like we were being listened to and that we were all in this together. Taking these sentiments, I was able to complete my studies e.g. my coursework, exams and dissertation as I knew that the university understood my circumstances as well as the new arisen difficulties.
Similarly, the Career Zone continued online with webinars and online appointments which really helped me after I had finished my studies. The quickening fear of now finishing my studies and having to think about my next steps after university were immediate during the lockdown as I felt the pandemic had thrown my future pathways into doubt. Pre-covid, after exam celebrations were planned and the career thoughts and journey were meant to be put on hold as I would have celebrated and enjoyed the summer months travelling, working part time and enjoying a well rested break. However, sadly I knew that this would not be able to happen, the career worries set in and this is where I turned to the career zone. The support online for helping find graduate jobs, internships and also advertising webinars to help you apply e.g. I took part in one last week on what assessment centres are like were all readily available and free to access for students. This career support has made me feel less stressed and worried about what the future might hold after my time as an Exeter student sadly comes to an end.
In addition to the worries of my future, I was before Covid attending wellbeing appointments through the university’s wellbeing services. This was this year a new thing for me and I was just adjusting to seeking help with my mental health when the pandemic began. I suddenly thought how was I going to receive the help I was having before and may now need during the lockdown? The university made it clear that their wellbeing services were still accessible and that appointments would now be by phone. This was increasingly positive news and really helped me to know that I would be able to access the support I would need away from Exeter. Similarly, the Doctors surgery on campus was able to offer me telephone appointments too.
Overall, the university’s support for me during these difficult times has been welcoming and reassuring. I have been able to seek help from relevant services and have been supported through my final year studies by my tutors and other academics and university staff. The university has been great at moving its facilities online which I have been able to access. My fears and worries are still there however the university has been able to help me understand that this isn’t goodbye to Exeter University once and for all. I will at some point in 2021 have my awaited graduation and I will always be an Exeter University student at heart.