A Semester Abroad In My Own Country

A Semester Abroad In My Own Country
2021-06-18

What was supposed to be my “regular” 3-week Christmas holiday back home in Helsinki in December 2020 turned into almost a 5-month long stay as the government guidelines prevented me from returning back to Aberdeen. Funnily enough, the same thing happened last time I left Aberdeen in March 2020 to “quarantine for a couple of weeks at home until this pandemic is over”. Little did I know. 

I had pretty much nothing with me, not even a check-in bag as I was expecting to just pay a holiday visit back home. My partner, most of my clothes, my flat, everything was still in Aberdeen. Maybe because of that I held child-like hope of the pandemic easing in just a few weeks, which then resulted in me postponing my flights four times until finally coming back in the week before exams. The whole semester felt pretty surreal. Despite all the lectures being online, last semester I still had access to campus through the library (my absolute favourite place to work in) and an in-person class once a week. I could still grab a coffee from Kilau and sit on the lawn and pretend for a bit that everything was like before. This time, there was nothing to physically connect me to the university, which manifested itself as a difficulty to find motivation. There were times where I did not even feel like I was in university.

The pandemic-fatigue definitely started to swoop in, but I was lucky enough to know other people in the same situation. There was nothing more comforting than my weekly calls with my flatmate who was also stuck abroad. Every Monday we would vent on the phone and offer each other peer-support, which quite honestly carried me through this whole semester. I’m sure I’m not alone in being tired of hearing that “we are all in this together” (because the reality is that we are not), but the best thing I did for myself all semester was to vent to someone who could understand even a little bit.

Despite this, things got really difficult for me personally in the middle of the semester and I started realising it was time to reach out to someone outside of my friend group. I emailed my personal tutor, who then set up a catch-up meeting with me on Teams, which turned out to be another life-saver in the semester. I can’t even describe how relieving it was to explain what was going on to someone in the staff. In the meeting I also realised how little interaction I had actually had with any staff members in the past year. As corny as it may sound, the whole experience reminded me that there are actual people behind the scenes who are teaching us. Although everything was not solved in that one meeting, I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders after having the opportunity to share what I was going through.

It goes without saying that I hope that we could all have our lives back in the next academic year, in any shape or form. Until then, I want to allow myself to be tired, allow myself to take a day off when everything gets overwhelming, and to allow myself to admit that this semester was the hardest one yet. I will never ungratefully go to a 9 am lecture ever again (although saying this I’m sure the novelty will wear off after a few weeks), nor will I ever complain about “too many classes in the same day”. Looking back on the experience now that term has ended was crazy but I feel really proud of everyone for pushing through it in the end. Well done us!

  Veera is currently a Level 3 student studying MA Psychology.
Published by The School of Psychology, University of Aberdeen

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