Tiaa laying on the grass reading a book

Picture 1. I have found new reading spaces since the library was closed.

By the end of March 2020, the campus moved to online learning. I was midway through my second year studying psychology, and I had applied for summer internships with a specific field in mind. Suddenly, the jobs were cancelled, and it was unclear how our modules would be completed. My schoolwork was delayed by two weeks as I decided to move back home to be with family. I felt like I had to start all over again after working hard to find my place at the university. Fortunately, the university was consistent with communication from early on, and we were soon informed about completing the summer term online.

My department agreed on a 7-day extension to deadlines, though this did not help much as the end-of-year exams were not postponed. Overall, since the campus was closed, online resources have been used more efficiently. Video lectures have been provided, pre-recorded and in real-time. While I miss face-to-face interaction, I have found it useful to pause recordings to double-check things or to take extra breaks. I used to follow the schedule of the lectures and study the topics covered each week, but with the recorded video lectures, I must plan my revision in more detail. I have learned to use project management apps to write down assignment deadlines and steps on the way to complete them.

Laptop and study materials on outdoor table

Picture 2. I try to keep my study set up tidy and free of distractions.

This spring has felt extremely uncertain and stressful. Usually, when we are assigned a piece of coursework, we get a briefing of the topic with examples and time for questions. This time, we received instructions over Moodle, but in some cases, they left me wondering where to start. Especially with a podcast presentation, I took detours both with the content and the technical side, as I had to learn a lot by trial and error. Luckily, both the lecturer and IT support were easy to approach.

Back on campus, my peer students and I used to discuss lecture topics together, but I was happy to see how it still happened over Moodle and group chats. We read each other’s work, explained topics, and tried to cheer each other up. I also had a one-on-one meeting with my tutor over Zoom. I was informed of additional resources and support during this time, yet I felt it was my responsibility to seek information when needed. However, I was reminded of the inclusiveness and supportiveness of the community at Essex. The staff went the extra mile to find information for me or to point me to the right person. I felt like everyone wanted me to succeed and tried to help me on the way.

Tiaa in a boat on the river

Picture 3. I have had time to pause and re-evaluate my goals.

Most importantly, the lockdown has forced me to stop and re-evaluate since continuing my usual schedule was not an option. For once, I had time to reconsider my priorities. I have always been proactive with my studies, which is why I adjusted to online learning quite quickly. I have enjoyed working at my own pace, and the online learning experience has given me confidence in my abilities. I was able to complete the year mostly as planned due to the online exams with reasonable time extensions. While completing assignments felt hard and meaningless at times, it also gave me the motivation to get up in the morning and stick to my daily routine.

We are facing a situation no one could have prepared for, and each of us needs to find ways to do our best under the circumstances. 2020 is a year that changed our lives for good, and there is no going back to how things were. I had to clarify my goals and try and see which of my daily routines are essential for my well-being. I have found new ways to study and to use technology to enhance my learning. Even though I genuinely miss studying on campus, I know I will bring the things I have learned with me once I return to on-campus learning in October.