Having been at the University of Stirling since September 9th 2017, I was in my third year when the first lockdown was announced. When the coronavirus pandemic arrived, I thought and wondered as to what this was all about.
On March 23rd 2020 the experience of a lifetime was to begin, and it hasn’t finished yet. Now a year later, one can only try to forget what was easily the strangest and most awkward year of my own personal life.
In the beginning, life was strange. I was living in a chalet with four other students; however, within a short space of time I would be living on my own due to them leaving – such was the fear of the seriousness of the pandemic in all of its warnings.
After three weeks I was alone. I couldn’t go home as I am homeless. I could not travel as all travel had ceased, such were the latest regulations laid out by the Scottish Government.
Having lived on my own for years before coming to university, in many ways this would stand me in great stead. However, stark loneliness in an area where there is not another soul lurking is a completely different situation altogether, especially in another country.
Having just finished third year, I was taking a break from reading and revising. In many ways, television and the internet were all I had to make sure I could find some sort of stimulus.
Sadly, shortly after lockdown began, on the 9th of April, I received a phone call from a friend who alarmed me that my dear sister Lorraine had lost her life in an incident at home. I was totally devastated. I was not expecting to hear such sad news, which was what I prayed against on the ferry on my way to Scotland when I first came to Stirling. I prayed and asked God to preserve my family until I came home again. Sadly this was not to be.
Lorraine (R.I.P) was buried within a short space of time. Three days to be precise. Sadly, I was unable to get to the funeral as government restrictions had me literally impaled to my house. Only a small number of family members were allowed to be present graveside. Personally, I was trying my best to deal with the issue. Here I was, all alone in the middle of a proverbial nowhere, my loving sister dies and I cannot get home to her funeral. It would be stubbornly wrong of me to say that I wasn’t mentally distraught by this all.
In the days that lay ahead, I found myself sleeping most of the day. I would get up rather late in the afternoon, missing breakfast. I would wash, make some supper and when that was done, I would go back to bed again. My body felt drained of all of its energy. My blood felt like as if it was being taken out daily. I was just existing.
My hair was growing long, so long it was hard to get to sleep as when tossing and turning it would catch on the pillows and pull, sorely, on each side. I just felt drained of all my energy, and the only perk I had was a visit to the shop on my bike to get provisions – which was once or twice a week.
The whole situation had by then become part of reality. For a while it was like something out of a Hollywood movie. No one was told the way we should behave during this climate we found ourselves in.
As time lapsed and summer grew closer, the weather got better – which didn’t help things, as there was literally no freedom to enjoy it. I suppose, in many ways, it was more of a persecution. The grass on campus had been devoid of its weekly trimming, for months. The surrounding land was like a zone from an apocalyptic era compared to its normal beauty, pre-COVID of course.
Over the summer months, newsflash after newsflash, things were not to get any better. This was also taking its toll over a period of time. There were to be moments of the easing of lockdown, only for by Tier 4 statistics forcing full closures again.
As time passed and as semester started again in September, the expected online tuition was confirmed. This meant that the normal attendance at your weekly lectures and seminars was all voided in the semester which lay ahead.
The fact that the normal learning experience was taken away and a new format of “online learning” was then put in place gave many students reason to become lethargic, and personally I was no better than the rest.
The fact that the whole motivation of getting into campus, meeting friends, having tea/coffee and chatting with the many other students was all taken away, gave an open gate for students to lay in bed for longer daily and to choose what time to uptake their online tuition. This of course has led to a massive drop in motivation from the greater percentage of students.
In managing to come to terms, personally, with the change, I created a time scale where I could fulfil my readings, learning and also writing of any coursework which was required or requested. I always thoroughly enjoyed the classroom; however, I had also become used to the new format of learning, such was the change.
I have just got along with things, day to day. When coursework came in it gave me something to do by way of trying to raise my motivation and create something for my lecturers. In many ways I was thankful for the work. This created a stimulus for me. It gave me a reason to get up out of bed, as I had been oversleeping while being drained of my motivation.
In the end and moving forward, I have got used to the situation at hand. It is what it is and the longer is has lasted, the more I have actually learned to cope with it. I have my own regulations, like hand washing and having plenty of cleaning equipment in my chalet, which is used militaristically. Therefore, I have just learned to live with the things the way they are.
This will never take away the heartache and pain I felt when I was literally in the distance, alone, left to my own devices as I heard the news of my sister Lorraine’s sad passing. At that moment, the worst news I had feared, a death in the family, hit me like a tonne of bricks. It was not helped by the pandemic. In fact, I had never felt so lost in all of my life.
I got over it. The period of time passed. But the memory will always last.