Tag Archives: Lockdown

Finishing Year 11 in 2020

Well that’s one for the history books.

By Annabel Jeffery

On the 20th March, schools shut their doors to all but a few students. “Exams will not take place” were the words that some rejoiced at, whilst others almost cried over. Two months ago, I was the latter.

I’d worked consistently from the start of my GCSE year, with my supposed first experience of exams looming over me from September last year. I’d seen GCSEs as a first step, but still one I wanted to excel in, the perfectionist that I am. I didn’t know what to expect, but this certainly wasn’t it.

Therefore, I was in denial when this announcement came. My phone buzzed with excited, confused and tearful friends at once. We half-heartedly “carried on” in school the next day, unsure as to how our grades would be decided and our futures looking blurry. Prom was put on hold (which we considered as cancelled), along with all of the other Year 11 experiences we’d waited for. In those final days we said goodbye to those we weren’t expecting to see leave for another few months.

For me personally, the uncertainty and unpredictability of the lockdown and pandemic has been the hardest part. At first, it was considered that we might be able to collect our results earlier. Now, the original results day of the 20th August has been confirmed, meaning a 5-month wait instead of the standard 2 months.

Moreover, these grades are evidently not what they should have been.

We still had three months until exams, meaning most of us still had more to do and further to go in achieving the grades we wanted. Whereas now, our mock results – the exams we’re supposed to make mistakes in order to learn – are being used as a factor in our final grade. 

I can’t help but feel extremely guilty for feeling this way. The pandemic is ultimately a far bigger concern. Sacrificing GCSE exams is a minuscule thing in comparison to NHS workers putting the lives of themselves and their families at risk. In some ways we could be considered the luckier ones – we get our results and carry on. The years either side of us still have exams that they are missing content for and some have only just gone back to school part-time. I’m also aware that Year 13 have got much bigger concerns over university due to their exams being cancelled as well.

Although, throughout these past few months, I’ve not known what to do next. Carry on revising? Start looking over A level content?

Like other students in this position, I’ve gone from working harder and feeling under more pressure than I ever have done, to doing practically nothing – leaving my brain unoccupied. The question I keep asking myself is: if to work hard means no meaningful results, then why bother?

On the other hand, whilst the first few weeks were a welcome chance to relax, I’m now starting to feel ready for a routine and a small amount of work. I thought that this was just my personality, but speaking to a few others in my year, similar thoughts have been brought up. We feel, and rightfully so, a bit forgotten.

Fortunately for me, my school has set small amounts of “bridge work” for each A level subject. This mostly includes reading lists and research for my subjects, which I’ve been gradually working away at, but schoolwork is only one element in school life.

Although I am someone who has struggled with anxiety around school and has not really enjoyed it, I find myself itching to get back. Seeing friends, leaving the house to study and having something to work towards are things that cannot truly be replicated during this pandemic. To be honest, whilst I’ve set a few goals, most days the most exercise I can do is running to the sofa.

But that’s okay, because all we can do for the time being is to sit and wait.

We can’t plan any celebrations for the exams we never had, even if we wanted to. But, for now, having a picnic with friends does the job nicely.

Life in Lockdown Update: amber weeks

Lockdown was easy at the beginning; having a few lazy days, thinking that this madness would only last three weeks. But then it got harder and longer. 97 days. 139,680 minutes. 8,380,800 seconds – and counting.

Luckily, lockdown restrictions are starting to ease. For people like me, who started this lockdown alone, being able to see other people makes an enormous difference.

I guess I don’t need to keep talking to my bedside lamp anymore. Sorry, Sebastian.

The worst thing about lockdown is the effect it is having on my mental health. It wasn’t at a great point before all this started, but I had begun making progress. Now I am back to square one. I am still struggling daily, just like so many people out there.

Life returning to normal is just as daunting as lockdown. I am scared about life going back to something normal. After so long, am I ready? Are we ready? What even is normal anymore? How will life change again now? 

I wasted the first few weeks of lockdown doing nothing but playing games and watching TV. Then I started trying to stay proactive and be constructive. That lasted a little while, but I soon ran out of assignments and I’ve now taken a pause from my blog. In fact, I have stopped writing in general – this is the first thing I’ve written in weeks.

I feel I have lost my voice, lost my fire. I have completely lost track of the days and do not follow any sort of plan now. I spend some days in bed doing nothing, but other days I get up dressed and find something constructive to do.

It isn’t easy. But with lock down easing, and hopefully ending soon, it is time to start getting back to normal life. It is time to start getting back into a routine.

I haven’t personally gone out and experienced the city centre since the shops have started to slowly open again. I did, however, experience going on a train recently. Just seeing how empty the station and train were was a completely weird experience, but it was reassuring to see most people following all the guidelines to keep themselves and others safe.

So, maybe we are ready to start appearing from our homes and having some normality back. It is exciting to see what our new lives for the next few months will be and how we will continue to band together as a society to get through this year together.

I personally don’t care that the shops are opening again, as I am a hoarder and this time has been good for me to stop buying things. I only really wanted McDonald’s and the clubs to open again. I miss being able to gather with my friends and relax together, dance and sing, meet new friends, and just be young and free.

Two members of my family tested positive for the virus at the beginning of the pandemic, and it was horrifying, but to be able to sit here and tell you all both members made a full recovery makes me feel so grateful and lucky.

The Covid-19 lockdown has affected everyone in different ways. At first everyone was enjoying the time, then the isolating nature of lockdown and the impact of how deadly the virus is really hit, which made us all scared and confused. But it is amazing to see how every community, big or small, has come together to help and support each other through this time.

It’s also great to see how humans taking a step back has helped the planet heal, even if only a little. It is amazing to see these positives come out of such a negative time, but they are important and should be acknowledged and appreciated.

University of Plymouth Students Reflect on Lockdown Exams

By Tobias Chalcraft

COVID-19 has impacted our lives in many ways and exams are clearly of no exception.

While you might think alternative coursework, or even a classic essay, may be wise in these circumstances, most departments at the University of Plymouth decided to push ahead with exams in an online format.

Rather than receiving a 2-hour exam in Nancy Astor or Plymouth Pavilions, these new exams involve a paper becoming unlocked on our Digital Learning Environment (DLE) at a fixed time. You then have 48 hours to type up responses on a word document and upload the completed work onto the same site before the deadline passes.

This has understandably been interpreted as a less intense alternative to usual exams.

Casually researching appropriate academic literature on the internet replaces trying to access information that has been etched into your brain over the last few weeks. The heart-stopping declaration that “YOU HAVE 5 MINUTES REMAINING” is replaced by the beats of your favourite playlist. The only strain on your hands in these exams comes from picking up your sixth cup of tea.

We interviewed a handful of students from University of Plymouth to get a better insight into how they interpreted completing their exams during these unprecedented times. We started by asking if they preferred this format and responses generally showed a preference for this year’s arrangement, as opposed to preceding physical exams. 

Hannah, a University of Plymouth student, said, “I think it allows for students to fully show their understanding and depth of a topic as they are able to identify and use literature which is relevant to the subject”.

Another student added , “I found it easier to collect my thoughts and think more rationally and the [extended] time limit was an even bigger bonus than the usual two hours”.

On the other hand, some students felt “pretty indifferent”, or even said they preferred the traditional way of completing exams. One commented, “it was fairer in the sense that it allowed a better evaluation of students’ preparation”.

Although lockdown measures put in place to tackle COVID-19 have increased loneliness, there seems to have been a positive effect on students’ anxiety. One student said that online exams have “been so good for anxiety. I barely go outside as it is and having to go in an exam hall is b******s”.

Furthermore, there seems to be a divided opinion on how stressful these digital exams were, in contrast to the traditional format. One student said that she preferred the online experience because “cramming loads of information into my mind and trying to remember it isn’t really a good test of knowledge”. Meanwhile another undergraduate, Taku, said this year’s practice was “definitely a benefit as I felt more confident and sure of myself”.

Other students like Giulia, on the other hand, believe that these tests have been more demanding because “if you are ‘competitive’ student, you will not be able to simply work for half a day. [This year’s exams were] 48 hours of stress and constant perfecting, so I think that it was harder on my mental wellbeing than the normal 2-hour exams”.

When asked whether these online exams will be of benefit or nuisance to their grades, it was clear that most interviewees were unsure. Hannah said, “I really don’t know! You would think it would be easier to get a higher grade as you have access to books and the internet but as a consequence of this, the marking criteria will be a lot harder!”

Meanwhile, some students remain optimistic. Levi found having more time to find relevant sources to be “very beneficial” and thus hopes this will translate into a desirable outcome. 

Aside from lacking clarity and varying impacts on mental health, remote exams have also removed closure for students. One third-year student summarised this: “These exams seemed so anticlimactic. I missed having the satisfaction of hearing the invigilator telling me to stop writing and knowing I was done. This being the final year of my course added to that dissatisfaction. Submitting an exam on the DLE and then going back to play video games didn’t feel nearly as rewarding as finishing a physical exam”.

Adding to this, final year students are mourning their final nights out of university life: “while Zoom gives you the chance to celebrate with a couple of beers, it is a poor substitute for that last messy night out to put you off alcohol for life”.

Likewise, Giulia added that “being able to enjoy a drink with all my peers to celebrate together and the feeling of having accomplished something are the things I missed the most”.

COVID-19’s dramatic theft of students’ last few months of university can be seen in this final contribution from a final year student: “I have missed everything. The sounds, sights, smells. As jarring as they could be, they will not be there for me again. I’ll treasure university as an experience, but it’s passed now.”

Life in Lockdown: Tobias Chalcraft

Following a conveniently timed, weekend-long birthday celebration and having spent the day on placement in the city centre, I finished early in order to go to my Monday afternoon university lecture. It’s as if my subconscious knew this would be my last, or at least final class outside of Zoom. By 6pm I was on the phone to family and planning a premature parting from Plymouth.

In comparison to others, my new normal seems reasonably better than life at uni. With significantly less hangovers, a day of working on assessments seems to last from 10am to 5pm every day. However, as a handy way of avoiding awareness of the hamster wheel that isolation has provided for many, I have work-free Saturdays to look forward to. 

Although this is a major first-world problem, that winds up many non-subscribers, I have failed to transition from gym sessions to home workouts. With bored family members readily available to laugh at any failed attempts of headstand challenges you’ve seen on Instagram, I have found it easier to limit myself to a handful of simple stretches before embarking on 20-30 minutes of outdoor exercise. But this is no alternative to a sweaty 2-hour outing at my former Plymouth gym.

On a more brighter side, my dogs are part of the thousands of their species who are ecstatic that their owners are now readily available to cater to every ball-throwing session or belly rub 24/7 (however our 13-year old is increasingly drained from the multiple daily walks we take him in order to get some time away from one another).

Plus, if a blog post about this isn’t cliché enough, I have taken up writing a daily diary, but this will mainly serve as a time capsule of politics-based headlines dictating the gradual deterioration of international relations. Still, I also try to write some ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ (a phrase used to title a podcast hosted by Ed Miliband), but repetitive responses of “It’s still sunny today!” just counterproductively forms deeply upsetting nostalgia for Cans on the Hoe with the boys.

More positively, I have bowed down to pressure to play Animal Crossing and watch Friends. The latter has a depthless quantity of heart-warming episodes (I’m only 20% through after a month of watching) that are perfect for an often lonely and gloomy occasion such as now. Meanwhile, Animal Crossing has completely defied my expectations of a childish and mindless game. Instead, my notifications of received boomer memes are overpowered by a group chat of friends trying to exchange pictures of what their ‘Nook’s Cranny’ store is selling, as we seek to defeat Tom Nook’s imperial capitalism in a far from ‘mindless’ manner.

While these forms of entertainment offer a welcome distraction, COVID-19 still offers personal reasons not to be so cheerful. You and I don’t need reminding that this coronavirus has impacted millions of lives a lot more dramatically than a 20-something who can’t attend mindless 2am drinking seshes with his friends, but there still remains an understandable upset. This exile means that this writer, and his many right honourable friends, have been deprived of their precious conclusion to university life – including a graduation ceremony (hopefully temporarily) and countless interpersonal-developing experiences with friends that may not live in the same city as you ever again. Plus, pre-existing anxieties of entering the job market are now increasing as much as Piers Morgan’s ego when his buddy Trump used to have the spare time to retweet him.

Anyway, time to save the NHS by convincing my unwanted new villager ‘Velma’ to move out of my island…

Life in Lockdown: Amber Weeks

By Amber Weeks

What is life in lockdown to me? You would think that was a simple enough question to answer, wouldn’t you? But it’s not. Lockdown has been weird – there have been days where I have completely forgotten about it and then there have been days that I can’t seem to get it off my mind. I have been spending lockdown alone, as my flat mate went home to be with her family. So, it has been a little hard to not go crazy and start talking to my bedside lamp like it’s a person.

Lockdown has been strange; I don’t know what to do with myself now, but to be honest not much about my daily life has changed. I suffer badly from mental health and can go days, even weeks without leaving my house, but as I started to get better and forcing myself to leave my house regularly, this lockdown came into place. I feel all the work I’ve done has been wiped away and I am back to being trapped within these same walls and inside my head again.

But instead of allowing this time to let me go completely insane, and to avoid talking to the appliances in my house, I have been keeping myself occupied. I have been having regular dance parties around my room for exercise and, unfortunately for my new neighbours, have dug out the Wii and the Sing It games again. I have been singing as loudly as I can, again unfortunately for next door! I am very bad, but it helps to get out my frustrations. I even tried singing High School Musical duets on my own – I would say it didn’t end well.

I binged watched Netflix, played video games into the early hours of the morning and just wasted each day for the first two weeks of the lockdown. But after being trapped inside for twenty days I decided I needed to get some sort of order to my life. I started going to bed early and waking up early, getting dressed, doing housework and started to do my assignments for uni. I even decided to start a blog and be constructive with my days. Even deciding to get out of my pyjamas and get dressed is a debate everyday as it seems pointless, but I can now see the value in such a simple task.

These days are scary and confusing, but it is hard to really grasp the serenity of it all until someone you know is affected by it. When this first began my grandmother was rushed into hospital for a few days, but thankfully she was given the all clear and sent home. But it wasn’t long afterwards that I got a message from my dad – he had tested positive and wasn’t well. I felt my whole world stop and panic wash over me. At first, I just thought that the media was doing what it does best and making this sound more dramatic than it is. It wasn’t until it affected my family that I understood. Thankfully my dad is getting better and beating corona. With him living in Scotland I wouldn’t have been able to see him regardless of the lockdown or not. However, it’s been horrible to know that if any of my local friends and family got sick, I wouldn’t be able to visit them.

I understand these times are hard for everyone for different reasons, but I feel this is also a time that people can join together with support for eachother, and grow. I personally am using this time to expand and grow with my creative writing and focus on uni, without the normal distractions. These times are hard, so to answer, ‘What is lockdown to me?’, isn’t simple. It’s a struggle every day to not allow loneliness to overtake me and let my depression set in but I also am using this time to be positive and work on myself as a person. I believe everyone should be grateful to each other for accepting and following the lockdown to keep each other’s families safe.

Life in Lockdown: ‘Life as a Quaran’teen’

By Affinity May

The dramatic change that the recent lockdown has brought to the UK is undoubtedly an incredibly hard situation to get our heads around. It has affected the lives of every individual – through the standstill of industries, manufacturing, businesses, job losses and the legal rules and requirements of every citizen. However one topic that the media are not focusing on is the effect it is having on teenagers.

As quoted in the World Economic Forum, a psychologist dwelled on the idea that this lockdown may actually allow opportunities for young people to get more creative whilst under such strict rules. Kayleigh Smith, a seventeen year old student, has started to develop a small business called ‘Smith Accessories’ where she sells keyrings and lanyards, mainly in Disney designs. Creating her own logo, planning the small business and how to get publicity, she successfully started up her small innovative idea. (Her business can be viewed on Instagram via @smith.accessories). There are countless other examples like this, but without doubt the younger generation are shown to be using technology creatively to stay connected, motivated and to keep their spirits high.

Teenagers, who in this age are profoundly technological and are coming into their identity, are regularly asserting themselves against social pressures. The lockdown coming into action has created a trending hashtag among teenagers – #findyourself – convincing teens to start working on bettering themselves now that they have time, and motivating them to focus on becoming their own individual. Teenagers have been posting body transformations where they show their small journey of becoming healthier through exercise. Scarlett Anderson, sixteen years of age, shared, “Since this lockdown started I began working out to start on my ‘summer body’ but as time went by I realised that I was feeling so refreshed that I developed a small structured timetable and jotted down my progressions of working out, I then got motivated to learn how to cook nutritional meals – both something that I would never have done if this lockdown didn’t happen” Scarlett is not alone in the idea of ‘body transformations’ – teenagers all across the internet share their ideas, plans and progressions. In reference to this there are lockdown exercise challenges which teenagers can do in the comfort of their own home while supporting each other. 

However, the social distancing measures that have been implemented have caused disruptions of future plans as well as daily routines. As of the 20th March, UK schools were closed to most pupils (remaining open to vulnerable children only, such as those whose parents are key workers). Over 90% of enrolled learners worldwide are now out of education. For teenagers with mental health issues these closures cause an inadequacy of connections to services that they may need to keep well. These could be facilities such as councillors, distractions, mediators etc. The charity YoungMinds surveyed young people in the UK on these issues. 83% of the students who took part said that the pandemic had made their conditions worse and 26% said they were unable to access mental health support. It should also be considered that an important coping mechanism for teenagers is their daily routine – including their school time tables and structures. Now there are no organisations in teenagers’ lives. Teenagers with special educational needs, for example autism, are particularly likely to become uncomfortable when their daily routines are disrupted and changed.

One big uncertainty in the majority of teenagers’ lives at the moment is the cancellation of the summer GCSE and A-level exams. Years of studying and working hard, but ending with no final exams as expected, can cause great discomfort to students. The unknown of the future is causing large amounts of stress and worry. Rebecca Hill, age 17, said, “Knowing that I may not be able to move forward with my future plans because I cannot sit my exams have caused so much stress on my mental health. I was reliant on my A-levels to allow me to move forward.”

On the other hand the impact that this lockdown has had on some teenagers’ lives has been positive. Now that they have more time to spend with families, relationships can be developed and strengthened. Many teenagers have found themselves venturing outside their room and interacting with their loved ones more than usual during the lockdown, most probably due to boredom – but maybe it’s allowing them to realise the importance of family. Saby Lenard, age 15, said, “I’ve started spending more time with my parents, especially my mum who has been encouraging me to create music, just like we used to when I was younger. I forgot just how much I loved spending time with them and I am thankful that this lockdown has opened my eyes to it and allowed me to realise the importance of family”. The majority of teenagers I spoke to admitted that they have found a new sense of happiness and comfort from being able to spend more time with their family. Some even regretted the amount of time that they spent on their phone or outside of the house, and away from their families, before the lockdown was announced.