At the moment, life is weird. I’m currently studying at Guildhall School of Music & Drama. And when I was applying for university courses this is not at all how I thought it would be. I guess it’s the same for everyone as we get used to a reality of online work that we couldn’t have imagined this time last year.
Being a student at the moment is very bizarre and so different to the typical ‘university experience’ that I was told about. Although university is full of big lectures and independent study which we are totally capable of doing while isolating, it is weird to not be in a room with people. Maybe it is some students' dream to not have to get dressed to go to lectures – 9am starts are way more relaxed when you can wake up 5 minutes before and do it in your pyjamas. But to be honest, as we probably all know by now, Zoom (or equivalent) is exhausting.
We find ourselves staring at screens all day, and even though you can see other faces on your screen it still feels like you're alone. You’d think that smaller classes and tutorials are easier to cope with, but you find that it is just as hard to judge when to unmute. We want to stay friendly and keep the conversation going, but we don’t want to interrupt or talk over each other.
One of the weirdest things I find about Zoom classes is that moment when you join and the whole room is silent, everyone is on mute and the lecturer just sits there weirdly looking at everyone until all the students have arrived. It’s so different to in person classes, with lots of smaller conversations happening and general noise in the room before it starts. So much of this is not really possible online.
Another big issue that students are facing at the moment is making friends, especially meeting freshers and getting to know them. One of the good things about Zoom is that it makes the process of learning names much easier because the names are constantly on the screen. But knowing someone’s name is only the first step and it is so much harder to really know someone when you’re only seeing their face in a box.
I think this has been particularly hard for the Christian Unions who are now trying to pick new committees. We had to get creative as CUs this year with regards to how to reach out to people, how to make the most of our social media pages and get people along to meetings, so that we can keep showing Jesus’ love to our universities and can keep sharing the good news of the gospel. It has been so encouraging for me especially to see new people coming to meetings and I’m really looking forward to getting to know them better, even with the added online challenges.
Like everything at the moment, our university courses feel uncertain. Especially for those doing more practical degrees (like my music degree), things seem to make less and less sense as more restrictions are put in place. Sometimes it can feel like our learning has been put completely on hold.
But even with all of these challenges, it’s good to be reminded that God has a plan that is bigger than anything we could imagine. We want to keep the hope of Jesus in our hearts and share it in our universities.