At times, the lockdown felt like being trapped on a deserted island, where I lost track of time and control over my future. However, I was absolutely certain about one thing, and one thing only, that I would keep moving! Not completely in a physical sense (even though I did take up running for a while), but more into the direction of developing and pushing myself forward, and more consciously ignoring that little voice playing that irritating song in my mind that goes; What if we all die tomorrow and what if there is no tomorrow?
Luckily, I managed to accommodate that little voice and found more positive lyrics, such as if I’m going to die, I’d rather die trying, and doing what I believe is worthwhile, and that was that! Though, I have to thank my Islamic faith first, then all the readings that I did in the past, as they all reminded me, I could maintain a positive mindset regardless of circumstances. Taking into account the mind-set, motivation and the pressing need of surviving the lockdown, I decided to be proactive by being fully engaged with what the University had on offer for us students, and that proved to be the right move.
So, during lockdown and throughout this summer, I managed to get out of my comfort zone. I applied for three different opportunities, which meant two virtual interviews via Skype and Microsoft Teams (welcome to the new world!) as well as a video recorded one, which was the most awkward one out of the three. Not to mention that I was a volunteer first, then an intern, with the Raising Awareness of Mental Health in Higher Education (RAMHHE), which I have a separate blog on, as it was a uniquely rich experience on its own right. And that is where I devoted the majority of my time.
Despite the fact that my hands were fully immersed with RAMHHE research activities and family/kids, I have also managed to venture off into different areas. I took a trading course and learnt a great deal about Forex trading, support and resistant and technical analysis. At the same time, I created a Facebook page (which wasn’t my best move).
I attended numerous amazing seminars held on Microsoft Teams by the university Centre for Student Success team, who responded swiftly and effectively to the sudden shift of climate from in person, to virtual interaction and provided plenty of excellent opportunities for students to stay engaged, which was vital for students mental health and wellbeing in order to survive lockdown. They invited different experts in various fields to share their experiences, knowledge and wisdom with us. So, we have learnt about interesting topics such as self-leadership, portfolio career and traditional versus modern/current job market.
However, the highlight of all these seminars were the truly eye-opening sessions on Closing the Degree Awarding Gap, and Black Lives Matter. These two seminars created an open and candied dialogue between us students and lecturers/leaders, where we tried to understand complex issues like structural racism, injustice, bias and how we can all make a difference by educating ourselves and being more conscious about the impact of our actions. Having that open space has created a sense of community and solidarity among us during an exceptionally difficult time, it has allowed us to voice our opinions, express our mixed feelings and share thoughts. At a very dark time, we were able to come together and grieve as a community, at a time in which we were all physically (at least) two meters apart, and that simply meant hope.
In conclusion, the COVID-19 lockdown period and the summer of 2020, was one of the busiest and most productive times of my life, with many ups and highs but also many lows, filled with sadness, worries and hopelessness days and nights, but I powered through it all. I have managed to keep moving in the right direction and I have learnt so much from each step I took, the silly, the good and the great ones. I said yes so often, when my head was saying no, we are comfortable right here.
Undoubtedly, not being able to see my family this summer and not knowing when I will, is the hardest thing that I am still dealing with, as I miss them dearly but I lay in the comfort of knowing that my dad and my family are proud of me.
As the new term draws closer, I have been getting updates from University about how it will work, policies in place and what to expect in the current climate. Although, many things sound complicated and not entirely clear, I’m confident of the continuous support of our lecturer, who got us through the troubled final term of last academic year, and I am ever so grateful for them.
So, here I am saying farewell to an unexpectedly great summer and greeting the new season and new beginnings with a smile, an open mind and heart to take it all in, and may the new academic year, and 2021, be the best year to come.
Alshaymaa Muhammed is a second year Public Health student at the University of East London.
Note: 'Student Blog' articles highlight the student perspective on issues relating to ProtectED. Consequently, this article reflects the views of the author and not ProtectED.