Today, student blogger Madii Hussain speaks about how the pandemic has affected her life covering the topics of university, mental health and positive opportunities to connect with others.
“You haven’t even started your life and you’re already in debt” a wise woman named, Ella, said to me. I’m already in a debt of £18,000. More zeros than I’ve ever seen before. I am fortunate that I’ve yet to see another zero at the end of my overall debt so far. The opposite end of the spectrum isn’t so favourable. Many students are still being charged hundreds and thousands for an empty room. I am glad to say that I am not one of them. I live with my parents in Birmingham and I am able to travel back and forth with relative ease during this pandemic. Unlike, these many students, who are abandoned in accommodation with complete strangers, struggling to feed themselves.
Remote learning is the toughest aspect of my university life. Staring at a screen all day really enhances my ‘zoom fatigue’ and has a huge impact on my vision and wellbeing. When I am asked to switch on my camera, a wave of terror consumes me. The idea that I am being watched, increases my social anxiety and the need to put on a performance in order to stay calm and composed. I am constantly worried about the impression I make whilst on camera because the camera doesn’t lie. It can really emphasise that I am not in my natural comfort zone because my posture is very unnatural and my level of eye contact is extremely high compared to my face to face interactions. I’ve always had a bad habit of slouching, so this is a huge obstacle that I have to face every time I’m on camera because it is very difficult for me to sit upright and focus. By the end of the call, I’m literally disappearing off the screen without realising.
In the classroom, we can look around, talk to friends next to us, share our ideas and twiddle our thumbs. Locked in our homes, doesn’t provide us with the same atmosphere. Some of us turn up to lectures in our pyjamas, some of us turn on the lecture and go back to sleep and some of us kick lecturers out of their own meetings.
Mental health and wellbeing
Throughout this pandemic, I’ve utilised my free time by writing Criminology blogs, doing visual arts as well as starting to write my own book. I’ve always been conscious of the need to improve my writing skills, as English isn’t my strongest point. On the other hand, I’ve found that as I’m settling into this new life of academia, my amount of spare time has rapidly decreased whereas the workload has become more intense and rigorous. My timetable used to consist of two to three working days maximum but now I am listening to approximately five hours of lectures every weekday. As a workaholic, this is manageable for me but for most students, this is torture. This hugely impacts our mental health, every day. It’s feels like we’re also restricted in expressing our concerns because we’re all in the same boat and so we have to learn to adapt and deal with this.
As well as having its challenges, I truly believe that this pandemic has opened up new avenues for education. I’ve had the opportunity to connect and meet with criminologists all over the world. Before the pandemic, sometimes, I didn’t see my father for days because I was finishing workshops very late in the evening and working as a tennis coach. Now, I am able to spend a lot more time with my family; some days this isn’t a good thing. However, I was always so enthused in my own life that I didn’t even have any time or energy to spare for my family. The memories I had with them were very short-lived and forgettable as the days passed. My mind was always inundated with work and meetings which ultimately cost me a friendship. This total disruption, caused by the pandemic, provided me with a pause, think and reflect button which I am truly grateful for.
I’ve known Ella since December 2020. She’s in her fifties. We met in the context of a passenger (being me) giving her bus driver a memento of appreciation in a time like this. Ella told me that she was angry because the pandemic had stolen a year of her life. A year that she is never going to get back. And then she asked me whether I was also angry. I said no because I am now more appreciative of life than ever before. However, I am definitely consumed by a constant fear. A fear that comes to life, each time I go out. Will I return home virus-free? I am a biologist which keeps my feet firmly on the ground. I have a huge leap of faith in science, which really increases my optimism for the future.
Overtime, I’ve known several people who contracted the virus and required a ventilator. I’ve heard of the hundreds of thousands that never made it past 2021. I’ve seen my own mother struggle, when she contracted the virus. I’m thankful for not being in any of these positions so far. This kind of grief will stay with us for a long time even after we’ve overcome this pandemic.
As an undergraduate, I am hugely optimistic that we will return back to normal, hopefully in time for my graduation in 2023 - when I will be able to look back and feel triumphant about overcoming the obstacles that I’m facing right now.