Life in Lockdown Part 1: Abrupt changes (returning home before lockdown)
Excited to be home in an hour. See family and friends for a few weeks before returning to university. A
lot is uncertain, but you are just carrying on like normal. That is all you can do at this stage. Suddenly,
there it is. An email. Something you have been expecting, though still has an adverse impact on you.
Fears come true. The return to York is not happening in a few weeks. You will be at home for a bit longer
than that. Future plans are plunged into a huge cloud of doubt.
I was on the train home when the university sent the email informing us that summer term will
happen online. I had stayed in York for a week after term ended to rehearse for drama productions after
the holidays, which is the aspect of Summer Term that I was most excited for because I had not been
involved in a play for over a year. I had been increasingly apprehensive during my final days in York; my
friends had left, and I was still there with the news of a virus spreading becoming increasingly dire. I did
not want to be stuck on campus and just wished for home comforts. That is exactly what I was
unsurprisingly granted, though in ambiguous circumstances.
Everything you were looking forward to. The moments you believed that your year at university
had been building up to. The main term. Summer. Mostly cancelled. Gone. Perhaps partly postponed,
who knows? You sit there on the train, remaining unsure, but feeling that something has been snatched
away from you. Actually, not something, but numerous things. What timing as well. Will there be some
I have Asperger’s syndrome, which has not affected me in terms of studies at university, but
slightly hinders me socially. I felt quite settled in York before the break, and summer was due to be my
busiest term. My English modules and exams would have been completed by the end of week five,
meaning I have essentially missed out on fun, or in my eyes, social integration, particularly through
societies as making friends in my flat has not been an issue. However, despite pitying how unlucky this
situation might be for me on an individual level, I have balanced my mindset with the knowledge that I
am currently in a comfortable position compared to a lot of people and have not had to worry about my
Disappointment. Will you be able to go back to York? Unlikely. How can everything be moved
online? So many questions, without the patience to wait for answers. You like clarity, but that is not
possible currently. Just settle at home. It is your only option. You cannot control what happens, though
can ensure that you adapt to it. Stay calm.
I was plunged straight into the reality of coronavirus when I arrived home. A family member
became ill shortly before I returned, causing me to have to re-pack my suitcase, vacate my room (in
which they had been staying while I was away) and transition into household isolation within an hour of
being home. I recall that my immediate thoughts after I moved back home were focused mainly on how
the course will be conducted over summer term (assessments had already been cancelled at this stage)
and what would happen to my numerous comedy gigs planned for over the Easter holiday. Again, I knew
that they would be cancelled, so above all I was intrigued by how the university would operate, still
holding onto the hope that most things would go ahead in some capacity, and perhaps naively, not all
There were abrupt changes, and everyone was simply waiting for some sort of definite
indications on various aspects of how we would all operate going forward. However, leading up to the
government’s lockdown, my emotions and outlook can be summarised by stating that despite worrying
about the remainder of my first year at university, I was glad to be home.
Life in Lockdown Part 2: The complicated nature of quarantine (during lockdown)
No solution is going to magically appear soon. Worrying about university will do nothing. Focus on the
here and now. Though how can you when everything is disappearing? Your plans are diminished. The
year is over, but incomplete. How can you make the best out of this situation?
After lockdown was confirmed, I wanted to stay positive and be pragmatic. For the first two
weeks, I plunged myself into helping organise an ambitious project with my local theatre. Instead of
cancelling, we moved an entire cabaret show online, which I hosted. Despite certain challenges with
technology while streaming to around 500 people, this turned out to be quite a success, demonstrating
to me that performing virtually was very much possible. The show had opened my mind to how I could
adapt my comedy to an online setting. I had also learned a huge amount about Zoom, which was useful
for the rest of lockdown and something that my family were grateful for!
You asked before whether there is any silver lining. It exists; you just need to find it. You have
ideas and energy, so why not take this is as an opportunity to try something different? I know you still
sometimes feel like everything you were hoping for has gone away, but the world has not stopped, it
has changed. Keep going.
I remained productive during lockdown by creating my own 5-part comedy sketch series on
YouTube named Quarantine Tapes, which were a light-hearted exploration of different characters
during lockdown. This allowed me to acquire valuable experience of writing comedy in a new form and
begin to understand the skill of editing videos, as well as producing an online portfolio to broaden my
scope of comedy and gain exposure. I was also elected onto the ComedySoc committee and featured in
a couple of their award-winning podcasts, which was an easy and enjoyable way of staying connected to
You are still quite enthusiastic about the course. You will be studying some great texts. A module
exploring a subject you are very interested in. Why is it not appealing to you then? Surely you can
involve yourself more in the modules.
Even though assessments were cancelled, I submitted my end of year coursework at the
beginning of term to receive feedback on my writing, as I had already completed the majority of the
assignment and researching Sigmund Freud for the final short essay was intriguing. I was looking
forward to the summer modules, particularly the one called ‘Bodies and Minds’, which I had spent time
doing the preparatory work for. However, shortly after term started, I became ill (a non-Covid related
issue) and after mostly recovering 2 weeks later, I struggled to find the motivation to partake in the final
couple of weeks of the modules. The course was being conducted through online discussion boards,
which were a good idea, though I personally really value face-to-face discussions in seminars, therefore
feeling like I could not engage as fully as usual. I understand that the department was restricted in how
to maintain student participation, so I cannot criticise their efforts in a difficult situation; had other
circumstances not affected me at the time, I am sure that I would have utilised the provided resources
Course ended. Finished creating videos. Term nearly over. Where does the silver lining come
Ending on a sentimental note, I believe that a lot of students would agree with me when I state
that the aspect of lockdown I valued the most (and admittedly sometimes the least) was spending time
with my family. Fortunately, the weather has generally been pleasant, and I currently live with two
siblings, meaning I have stayed active and not really become bored. The main benefits of lockdown
after a busy academic year have been improving relationships with family members, and in the last few
weeks, seeing my school friends much more than I have done since last summer. Lockdown has
constantly been an odd blend of challenging and enjoyable in various ways; despite lamenting not being
able to continue the fun of university life in York, I have been given the chance to appreciate the
comforts and people back at home in North London.
Life in Lockdown Part 3: The mysterious future (beyond lockdown)
Take things slowly. Do not plan too far ahead. We cannot know how everything is going to be in a couple
of months. Deal with changes as they come along. Predicting or expecting things might be harmful,
especially after all that has already happened. Once again you just tell yourself ‘do what you can for the
moment’. No one expects anything else.
Regarding the immediate future, the rest of this summer seems like a good opportunity to get
ahead, particularly in terms of reading books and doing preparatory work for my course. Therefore,
when term starts, I can focus more on other fun parts of university life. The ideal situation for studies
would be that there is some on-campus learning, which I know is what the university will try to do. I
believe that lectures being online would not be much different or disruptive, but for English and Related
Literature there are not many contact hours, meaning I view seminars as important and valuable for
generating ideas and gaining new perspectives; though this is obviously possible online, engaging fully in
a room is easier.
Summer term was cancelled. The year was incomplete. How many times do you need to repeat
that? You know that there is nothing you can do now. Look forward. However, you have lost time. Are
there still going to be enough chances to do everything that you wanted to?
I am concerned that on an extracurricular level it might be more difficult to partake in all that I
was aiming to when I arrived at university, especially after both the productions I was cast in for
summer term had to be cancelled instead of postponed. My ambitions remain very similar, but they are
(perhaps inevitably in this obscure situation) accompanied by an increased amount of personal
scepticism. My main societal involvement is (and will continue to be) in the performing arts, which are
quite time consuming. On a positive note though, lockdown has given me time to reflect and figure out
which societies I would like to commit to. As I mentioned in the previous part, I am writing all sorts of
content for the future and have been trying new things like creating videos, so I feel ready to perform in
various adapted formats whenever possible.
No more Zoom. That is no way to see your friends. You do not really know what socialising will
be like going forward. You want things to be simple, but they will continue not to be for the foreseeable
future. Can you party at university? Can you go to events? Do you have to restrict who you are able to
interact with? Nobody can answer those questions at this stage, you can only speculate.
My principal concern of being a student amid the pandemic, as I raised in Part 1, is socialising,
which I sometimes find difficult. This is the main reason I lament not being in York for summer term;
many students missed out on weeks of events and fun (after exams). Online socials had some novelty at
the beginning of lockdown but soon became boring and almost non-existent as measures started easing,
with platforms such as Zoom (in my eyes) now being very useful for more formal interactions. I am not
worried about nightclubs because I prefer other forms of socialising, though I hope that during term
there will be chances for controlled in-person social interactions. I also think that living in a house with
others will be beneficial. I cannot deny that lockdown has distorted things slightly; I have been spending
a lot of time with my school friends as they live locally, so going back to university might feel like
switching friendship groups over again.
Like everyone else, I want to be safe going back to university but am wishing that there are as
much in-person activities and socialising as possible. I do not expect to perform properly on a stage to
audiences until next calendar year; drama productions can adapt to recording plays, though comedy gigs
are more challenging and are an area of concern in the wider industry at the moment. Returning to York
having done a significant amount of preparatory work (which is possible for my subject) to free more
time for my extracurricular commitments, and looking after my health condition (I was recently
diagnosed with IBS, which affected me quite severely at the end of spring term and start of summer
term) to somewhat recover before September, are my priorities for now. These sound dull, pessimistic
and are maybe dissimilar to a lot of other students, but I would rather enjoy myself later in the future
when everything is closer to normal again.
Amid the indefinite uncertainty, we are all simply looking for some sort of silver lining, both at
the moment and for the mysterious future.