Life in Lockdown
The month was March and I had just started to feel settled and into the swing of University life
before we had to leave for the Easter holidays. I hugged everyone and waved goodbye to all the
friends I had made over the past few months, without knowing I would not be able to see them
again for a little while. I remember joking around and saying that coronavirus could put a stop to
this year and how maybe I would even miss my exams at dinner the night before I was due to
head off back home again. The next morning I work up energised and I felt really happy at the
thought of being reunited with all of my family again, so I hurried to the train station and two hours
later was excitedly greeted by my Mum, Dad and Sister at the station.
As soon as I got settled in back home, then came the awful news. Sadly it was not the same news
that most people received - that we were in lockdown and we could not see friends and family for
a bit. But instead, that my Uncle was badly suffering from the virus, and he had managed to even
end up in the Intensive Care Unit at the local hospital. I didn’t quite know how to react. I found it
so unbelievably tough, I was already trying to process a global pandemic and now I had to
experience the effects on such a personal scale too. It just felt like a complete disruption of
everyone’s lives, but none of my friends truly understood the severity of it - it is really all just
numbers and figures until someone so close to you is affected. Every day I would wake up and
ready myself for the worst, but my Dad always seemed to report back the same way: “he’s okay
for now”. In the following days I felt so overwhelmed by it all that I was kind of glad the main
person I talked to was my Sister, I just did not have the energy to do anything else or to feel
anything else but boredom. It was extraordinary if I could get up before 1pm considering the
whole night through I was just worrying and trying to distract myself with some bad TV or
Soon enough, on the 27th of March, my Dad rushed to the hospital. My Sister and I felt so sick
with helplessness and the weird feeling of waiting for nothing at all. The phone rang and I saw the
frown lines on Mum’s face so just left the room to distract myself from it all. 10 minutes later she
came into my bedroom to talk things through. By some sort of godsend, the entire thing was a
false alarm. From what I could understand, the wires measuring his breathing rate faltered and
gave a completely wrong reading. The relief was incomparable and from that point on my Uncle
felt better and better by each day, and I could not be more grateful for the NHS staff and workers
April really turned out to be a bit different. I remember I was wondering whether I should try and
land a job because there really was not anything else to do anyway, and the lack of socialising
was getting to me by this point. So I just had a quick search on ‘LinkedIn’ and ‘Indeed’, and on
my first search there was a job at a call centre working for the NHS 111 line. I immediately thought
this was such an ideal job and I was already wanting to join the volunteer team Boris Johnson had
set up to help the NHS and this was an ideal opportunity to do even more than that. The work
was at Sitel, a company who rented out their call centre facilities to other companies so their call
agents could work on their behalf and sell their products for them. On top of all of that, the rate
was £10 per hour, so it honestly could not get much better than that, the only downside being that
it was a temporary 4 week contract. So, I tried my luck and applied and two hours later I received
a call asking me to interview. The interview was really quite easy and only had two questions
about what qualities would a telephone agent actually need, and straight after this I was offered
the job! I was ecstatic and went to tell all of my family downstairs about it and that I was starting
the coming weekend.
3 days passed and it was my first day at a proper job. I felt so nervous, especially considering the
strict social distancing measures, but I was really looking forward to it. My first day was entirely
about training and how to deal with the patients ringing up the COVID-19 response service line,
but on the Sunday I actually started to take my first calls.
The first call I received was really nerve-wracking and I had to stay calm as she was quite worried
about her symptoms and felt she needed urgent advice. I took her through the algorithm of
questions and thankfully she only needed to isolate for the next week and did not need further
assessment by one of the nurses. After that the calls came pouring in and it felt a bit much at
times, especially when you received calls that really should have been put through to 999 initially.
As the weeks went by I got more and more confident and I had made a really tight group of 4
other friends who all were similar ages and we all go to University too so we had a lot in common.
Sadly though as the contract said we were dropped after a month of work and it felt so sad at the
time because all of my friends I had spent the past weeks with I was not really going to see again
and I could not even hug them. But, to this day we still stay in touch and this entire job was such
a massive confidence boost for me and was such an amazing experience!
I feel like May was simultaneously the month that dragged the most and went the fastest so far.
Exams and the stress taught came with them definitely added to this, because even though the
Vice Chancellor issued a statement early on that first year exams would be cancelled, I still felt a
certain pressure to do them voluntarily. Maybe it was because I really want to go on a year abroad
next term so I felt like this would really boost my chances to have my new grades on file too.
Despite my initial enthusiasm for the exams though, I felt I had no space in the house to actually
do the work and everything - no matter how small - was such a distraction for me at that point.
This made me feel really self-absorbed because I was not paying any thought to the students
struggling with exams that actually counted towards their final degree mark full stop. I could not
even imagine this sort of pressure, and I was thankful for the introduction of the student safety net
too by the Vice Chancellor. I just think this time has been so wild and unpredictable that its would
be really unfair to have people’s grades suffer because of something they cannot help, and
something that everyone is suffering with on a worldwide scale. I also thought the University’s
allowance of our subscription to the Big White Wall mental health programme was such a great
thing for me personally because it gave me an outlet to understand the things I was feeling and to
work through some of those emotions during this tough lockdown period. However, I still never
seemed to adapt to the virtual learning space and teaching online. I felt so switched off even
though the laptop was fully on. I just could not seem to engage in anything my lecturers or
seminar tutors were telling me, never mind the reading I had to do with whatever self-motivation
still lingered. I must say though, it really is not that inclusive to assume everyone has the facilities
to engage in online working, it is a privileged perspective to guess that everyone has working
internet, a free and quiet work space, or just a fully-functioning laptop at all.
Another thing that added to the confusion of this month and the stress of exams was the gradual
easing of lockdown and not knowing whether it was best to go out or not. I really did miss my
friends so much but I always had a massive worry in the back of my mind over whether I would
bring something back into the house and potentially harm my parents and family in general. I think
that was another reason why I felt bad was that I could not really see my grandparents at all
unless it was through the window, for fear that I would make them ill. For their sake especially, I
cannot wait for things to ease even more so we can properly reunite.