Staying connected

by Maria Clark

If someone had told me, before I started my first year at Lancaster, that I would be ending it at home, online, I wouldn’t have believed them.

If someone had told me that my flatmate - a stranger, eight months ago, from the other side of the world - would move into my childhood home, I would have probably laughed.

Before I started university, I had no idea what to expect. The ideas I had - studying, socialising, sleeping in - never came close to imagining the global pandemic of COVID-19.

I was incredibly lucky that I could return home to my family - but even more so because I stayed connected to my university life. Online studying - having to navigate Teams and Zoom calls; trying to fix broken cameras and dodgy microphones - became the new normal, and, in many ways, I did enjoy it (particularly as it meant not actually leaving my room!). One of my highlights has to be my English Literature group project, where not only did I get to work with some wonderful people, but design a ‘Pride and Prejudice’-inspired literary tour. Participating in online Open Days, and chatting to current and prospective students has meant I’ve experienced the friendliness of the Lancaster community, even though I’m hundreds of miles away.

I made some incredible friends during my first year, and although we were gutted not to experience the summer term together, we’ve had weekly WhatsApp calls. We send photos - just to remind each other that the world outside does still exist - play games; do Kahoot quizzes, and, most importantly make plans for the future. We don’t know what our future will look like, that’s for certain - but squabbling over films to watch in our new house and planning day trips at least gives us a sense of hope that things will get better.

Lockdown has been characterised by online communication for the vast majority of people. However, I managed to persuade one of my flatmates to come and stay with me, instead of being left alone in uni accommodation - and I can honestly say that I couldn’t have made a better decision. I certainly didn’t expect to be showing one of my new best friends around my home town, but I have made memories that I will cherish forever. It has put me back in touch with the culture and heritage of my local area, and with nature, through all the walks, picnics and exploring we have done. I may not have been in Lancaster, but my experience in lockdown has been shaped by the connections I made at university, and has shaped my determination not to waste a single second of the future years to come.