As we now emerge from lockdown, getting back to ‘normal’ is the main priority, but we should not forget about the months we spent in lockdown. Perhaps we shouldn’t aim to just go back to normal life as it was before.
Lockdown removed the most distinctive aspects of student life; we could no longer go clubbing or attend parties. Instead of living with friends, we were forced to return to our families. Lockdown changed student life significantly, but our education continued. We had to adapt to a new form of student life with very different priorities and with a very different format, and all during a global crisis of epic proportions.
Many things can be taken away from the time we spent in Zoom meetings, on social media, and ‘living’ through student life in a virtual setting. The pace of life in lockdown is not something that will be easily shed as university life begins again, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. Life before lockdown was not a panacea that we should strive to return to, and lockdown proved that big changes can easily be made to enrich our daily lives and mental health.
Lockdown proved our social bubbles to be versatile and adaptable
During lockdown, student life did not cease to exist, but the pace slowed, and the priorities changed. Societies were forced to think more about reaching out to all their members, and all of us had to take more responsibility over our mental health and that of others. The slow and steady pace of lockdown life provided more time for self-care and doing things that we wanted to do, instead of simply complying with social pressure. Returning to university with the prospect of seeing other people in person again is exciting, but also daunting. While lockdown proved that social media cannot replace in-person contact, it perhaps helps people to be more themselves and to emerge from their shells.
Lockdown proved our social bubbles to be versatile and adaptable. Despite the many faults of Zoom, it was fun to connect with people over video calls within the comfort of your own home. Facebook groups and pages became the hubs of creativity and sociability that many of us craved when out of uni. From TikTok to Facebook, the online community of students became a powerful force for helping each other cope with the isolation. Just knowing that you were not alone in the lockdown experience was a useful way of putting less pressure on yourself. This community will not just disappear as we leave lockdown, and knowing that your peers are there to help you is an important part of lockdown to be retained.
Lockdown taught me the value of living with friends and the privilege of being at university. Many of us had relatively ‘comfortable’ lockdowns, but others did not, and, for many, the relief of coming back to university is more than just going back to a good social life. Lockdown taught us how easy it is to work together to effect change, and, as with all crises, it highlighted the inequality prevalent in the UK.
Activism and education were led by students from across the globe
The lessons we learnt in lockdown are definitive of what actions we need to take to make the 21st century better. Simple lessons like the need for universal broadband and universal access to excellent mental health care can easily be facilitated, and the online community of students proves how we can help each other just by being connected.
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, lockdown served to amplify the reaction of students. Activism and education were led by students from across the globe. The virus took a backseat as issues far more historic and toxic were finally brought into the mainstream. The activities of students online and in-person during lockdown kept the idea of university and student life alive, and this sense of community, present before lockdown, has only been strengthened by it.
Our collective experience of lockdown may help to bring our already interconnected generation even closer together. We should not seek to merely go back to normality after such a unique experience. The student community developed and grew during lockdown instead of shrinking and decaying, and we did not let it stop us from defining ourselves as a generation who will change the world for the better.