Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

2020-2021: the academic year that failed us

CW: loss, sadness

This last year has been empty, it has been devoid of just about everything that makes life worth living. Then when parts of your life go bad, your deadlines pile up, or you have to deal with slow, annoying, nasty, stubborn, or gaslighting people ranging from individuals to the SU and university you get mentally bogged down and exhausted fast. The year being mostly online hasn’t helped me or anyone else, there is so much you miss out on only having contact with tutors and students through a laptop screen and shoddy webcam.

University academically is only about lectures and seminars on the surface, where the true meat of the experience happens is in the spontaneous encounters with staff and students, seeing someone is in their office and dropping in for a chat, perusing your supervisor’s bookshelves (and given mine this is a lot of books!), and generally the freedom to move around and talk to people. It is so important to round out your education and make you feel like your year was worth it.

As learning is currently set to be blended and exams online again next year, in decisions made ages ago without proper consultation or communication, it does make me worry for those of us staying around next year at any level. People could miss out on the real academic experience for the third year running and likely get hit with strikes immediately as we return, you do have to wonder why we keep letting this happen to us.

It is upsetting to think about what we have lost and everything

My dissertation supervisor this year has been simply amazing. He and the group he supervised this year certainly helped get me through the dissertation and make something I was rather proud of, so shout out to all of you, you know who you are. I can only imagine what this would have been like in a normal year, where you could meet up and discuss your work as you went and not be scattered across the country for months on end.

It is the little things that count, and in life so heavily regulated and managerially dictated its beauty and fun evaporates. Most of the point this last year seemed to be micro-managing people’s lives to make it miserable, to inject us with fear of the world and each other. I dread that this may linger into next year and adversely affect the experience of university academically and socially.

I can only imagine how different things could have been, should have been, and it is very sad indeed. It is upsetting to think about what we have lost and everything we will be forced to sacrifice in the future as we pay for the follies of the last year, so at times I just have to switch off and do other stuff. Except, the problem was that until recently there was nothing else. Societies did their best to run online, socials became a distant memory and are still difficult to plan with all the unfairly targeted restrictions still forced upon hospitality. I took up writing for The Boar from November/December 2020 trying to fill the hole.

It’s just a shame it has come too late to salvage our academic experiences

Full band rehearsals for Brass and Wind Orchestra are only back recently after 15 whole months and large socials are only just starting to return. Imagine someone telling you two years ago that you would go to university, and you would happily let the government wipe 15 of the most important months of your life out, you’d think they were mad. That returning to society events, going into The Boar’s office, doing all the things you once enjoyed feels alien and abnormal is a terrifying feeling to have.

But as things are finally being unwound it is nice to be able to do things, it’s just a shame it has come too late to salvage our academic experiences. What many people don’t get is that this lack of academic-social interaction has a greater influence on your grades, skills, and enjoyment than expected.

A lot was lost this last year, but it is not healthy to lament it too much (hypocritical I know) as the more you reflect the more it begins to hurt yourself, I should know. We must be very careful what the university and government have in store for us in the future, especially the next academic year. We cannot go through this again, it is not good for us at all mentally, physically, socially, academically, and most importantly – it is just not a happy life.

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