Being away from home is never easy, but it is certainly a whole new level of anxiety when cities are shutting down. Countries are updating their travel ban lists, and hundreds of thousands of people are breathing their last every single day. As England moved from gloomy and rainy weather towards a promise of a sunny summer, I faced the choice between going back home versus staying on campus during lockdown.
Campus life in lockdown
The answer was not obvious; neither was it an easy decision to make. In the end, I decided to stay in York for the same reason that my flatmates did; the University had promised to support us in every way possible. The grocery stores on campus would be stocked and the walking and biking paths would be accessible to everyone. The accommodation spaces would be cleaned as usual and most importantly, we would not be asked to leave at a short notice.
Campus life changed for those who stayed. In my house, we went from a group of 12 to 2 in a matter of days. All of a sudden, the kitchen was cleaner than usual and no more annoyingly loud footsteps were heard. However, my flatmate and I were constantly grateful for our weekly grocery runs to Nisa where we were even able to find our favourite flavour of Magnum! Although the campus was a lot more quiet, we began to notice things that we had never noticed before. We found a hidden swan’s nest on Campus East and soon we were swamped by gooselings, ducklings and cygnets. These little things reminded us that there was still hope.
The library adapts…
One of the biggest setbacks for students was the untimely closure of the library. Most of us were frantic about our essays and assignments for Spring Term. WWe were really worried about conducting research and writing cohesive essays without physical access to the library. A huge help came in the form of extended deadlines and additional support from teachers. Not only this, but the library offered to digitise texts that students required urgently. In some exceptional cases, they even offered to mail books to students who were not residing in York.
While this definitely helped in putting our minds at ease, colleges got in touch with their residents and offered information about mental health awareness, how to manage anxiety during isolation and some resources to reach out to if we needed any help. It was reassuring to see that some hotlines worked 24/7. Online zumba and yoga classes as well as baking competitions were also organised by the various colleges. All of this helped in creating a wholesome and safe environment for those who had stayed in York.
For me, a special lockdown moment came in May during Ramadan. My parents sent me a care package, and because the post office was open, my flatmates and I were able to wear our traditional outfits on the day of Eid. We even ordered decorations online and decorated our building! Eid was certainly a day well spent and I was so grateful for the little things that came together to make it an unforgettable day.
What I’ve learned…
While this was and continues to be a relatively frustrating, terrifying and somewhat surreal experience for most of us, this pandemic has taught me that the smallest of gestures can make a big difference. We can always find ways to celebrate and be happy. I had never thought that my Masters would include classes on Zoom, an eerily quiet University campus at times, multiple video calls throughout the day to check in with friends and making friends that soon became family. As things slowly return to normal and the smell of barbeque is in the air, I can’t help but look back at the last couple of months and wonder how unpredictable life is and what path it will take next. But for now, all that matters is to live in this very moment.
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