Autumn 2019. I could not imagine then that my second year of university would be like what it is a year later in 2020.
Covid-19 has caused seismic changes to the way in which we live our lives and has left no industry untouched. In Spring, as the university halls began to empty out, turning into a ghost town before their time, the nature of our new reality was slowly dawning upon me. Yet I think we did not imagine that it would still be impacting on our university experience when the next academic year began.
My first year of university was short, sweet and insightful. The first year is a fun year that does not count towards our final outcome, but there is still an expectation that we hit the ground running and begin grappling with material that is really new to many of us.
To illustrate the difference in workload from school and my first year, I would say it was like doing a Scottish Advanced Higher course in three months as oppose to a whole academic year. I thoroughly enjoyed (and still do) grappling with the work, living in halls with the campus and its resources (professors, libraries etc.), which are only 10 minutes away. The freedom to do what we can with our time and to explore and change the environment is not one that any of us will ever take for granted ever again. Looking back, I am glad that I choose to embrace the opportunities that came my way, such as getting elected as a University of Debater Council Member, competing at debating competitions, being a law school class representative and being selected to represent the University of Aberdeen at UNISLAM 2019. I did not know it at the time that choosing to embrace my first year would be one of the best choices I made.
As I am currently halfway through my second year first semester. Back in my home city, these opportunities feel almost too remote and so I am left with my pre-recorded lectures, 9am online tutorials and looming essay deadlines. I am glad that I have a supportive family who encourage me with their devotion in their respective fields. I also have a strong sense of direction. I learnt the things that worked and things that did not. There are days that I miss pre-Covid times. Especially now when I think back to a year ago where I did not realise how different things could be.
Having my first year cut short was a wakeup call. Sometimes real life can come knocking at your door when you least expect it. To all the freshers of 2020 I am truly sorry that you did not get the experience you dreamt of, in exam halls and when you graduated from secondary school. Your year is one of resilience. Remember to speak out if you are struggling or if you have any difficulty at all. I know the resources might feel very remote but there are people who care and want to help whether it be the university counsellors, the chaplaincy or other student help facilities. No concern is too small or too insignificant. We are the future generation, the leaders that will take this world to the next level. This experience will strengthen our resolve to achieve our best and, no matter what comes in the future, we can face it.
To conclude, my experience as a first year law student was cut short because of Covid-19, it was sweet because of the opportunities I was able to engage with in the courses within my degree, and it was insightful because it showed me the importance of making the most your situation. My situation, like many others, has changed. It is important to adapt, to keep up with the changes in industry, education, and the world. I am currently doing this by attending career focused webinars, doing virtual internships and working on my writing projects. These are the new opportunities that I am embracing. Where a familiar door was closed - a window of other opportunities has opened.