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Life in Lockdown - Molly’s Story


Life in Lockdown- 3 Step Change


Step 1: Normal Days


So, this is my life in lockdown. But first a little background:
I am a first year BSc (Hons) Film and Television Production student. I am the first person in my family to go to university, with
the rest of my family making up a “working class” demographic. Going to university was an unintentional dream for me, I kind
of just followed everyone else at my secondary school. I knew little to nothing about anything university related, but I knew I
wanted to get into media somehow, so I did my research and that was that. York was even better than I could have ever
imagined. A whole community of like- minded people, passionate about filming, some amazing socialite flatmates with some
crazy stories to tell, and some of the most kind and helpful lecturers I’ve ever met. A blank student room in Derwent college
soon felt like home, and my crazy flatmates soon became a new sort of family. I was living the dream, and I was the happiest I
had ever been. I’d got myself a job, joined YSTV, produced my first TV show, made loads of new friends. You get the gist, I was
a very happy fresher.
While my educational dream was taking shape I’d often keep up with the news. Coronavirus first started creeping up near
Christmas, I’d speak to family over the phone about it, saying “Oh how awful for the people of Wuhan”- but that was the
extent of the conversation. I felt awful for those affected; but it was a distant threat. Did I think it would come to the UK, and
to York first of all in just a few weeks time? No.
So I made plans. Got some work experience in America courtesy of the International Careers Fair in Spring term with a
company called Camp Leaders. I would be teaching kids fencing while filming promotional videos for them on the side.
Thumbs up from a fresher film student with no previous experience. Then I’d got a really well paying job in town. So I could
stay in the beautiful city of York which I loved while being able to pay my rent. Another big thumbs up from a first-gen working
class student who was struggling financially.
Now cut to mid-march. Term was over. The plan was I’d spend a brief two-weeks at the family home, then I’d come back to
university early as I was so eager to work. My family home is in the middle of nowhere, quite small- so there’s no privacy- and
I have to go back to the bedroom I’ve had to share with my 18 year old sister since we were born. But worst of all we have
little to no internet connection. Streaming is impossible, and there’s no phone signal either so phone communication with
friends or anyone at uni was a no-go. But I didn’t mind this- it’s just going to be a bit of a rubbish 2 week holiday and then I
can go back to my happy home at York. Right?
Oh how wrong I was. Coronavirus was taking a serious hold on the country by this point. Our TV was never off, constantly
keeping BBC News on screen, waiting for Boris to make his statements, and if I wasn’t watching the news, I’d listen to it on the
radio. I had it on all the time because I couldn’t understand or comprehend what was happening. Whole countries being shut,
people stuck in their homes, doctors with faces red and raw from the PPE they were constantly having to wear, it really did
seem like the start of some apocalyptic film or game. Deep down I was terrified- but still the UK continued to some extent,
lockdown still wasn’t in effect by this point. However, my mother, sister and I decided to collect all of my university belongings
on the 22nd March, just to be on the safe side.
Usually I love the 6 hour drive to York, every tiresome mile on the A1 would bring me closer to the city and uni that I’d call
home. Not this time. I was on the brink of tears the entire way there. Although the lockdown- unbeknownst to me- wouldn’t
begin until tomorrow, the family knew the prospect of university continuing was becoming a more distant hope. I knew that
this would be the last time I’d go to university for a long, long time. So reluctantly I packed my things, threw out the mouldy
cheese left in the kitchen and that was it. I shut the car doors and we were off, back down south for another agonising 6 hour
drive, knowing that the familiar sight of the York minster over the hills wouldn’t be a familiar one anymore.
So the family home is now my new reality. All of my university belongings are packed into the very small shared bedroom,
forming a sort of bedding and culinary fort wall between my side of the room and my sister’s. By this point I often stare at that
wall of boxes and bags. It still doesn’t feel real- that the traditional university experience really is over. It almost feels like the
opposite of the reality- that those bags are packed ready for me to go back, that third term will still go ahead. I can still meet
my friends, I can start my new job, I can learn new filmmaking skills. I can do all of these things that I had dreamed of doing
during my time at York. It’s still settling in now, that while this time isn’t what anyone had planned, wanted, needed or
deserved, life will still carry on, just in a different way.



Life in Lockdown- 3 Step Change

Step 2: Settling In


So by the point I’m writing this, I’ve been in lockdown for about 3 months. I’m managing fairly well with this new normal, well
about as well as anyone could cope when they’re living back with their parents during a time of quarantine. But the first few
weeks really weren’t the ideal “settling back with parents” plans I’d had in mind.
My family home is relatively small, a couple of bedrooms, lounge, kitchen, bathroom- fairly standard stuff. But for 4 people- all
now adults and 6 cats, (Yes you read that right, 6. My Mum loves cats what can I say)- it can get fairly hectic. But most of all
privacy is 0. Having a room all to myself is a dream now, as well as having my own schedule. Needless to say, for someone
who was just getting comfortable around their newfound independence I wasn’t so happy about this.
The first things that really hit home were the major things. My whole schedule was changed, I was no longer allowed to do
what I wanted when I wanted, as I had to compromise for the sake of the household. This involved stopping studying to do
chores around the house. My nocturnal study schedule had to be stopped entirely, even when I work best at early hours in the
morning. There were a lot of arguments about me not doing things according to house rules, doing chores wrong, being too
slow, being too antisocial with the family etc. This all took a lot of getting used to, and to be truthful I was angry. I was truly
grateful that I had another home to go back to rent free, rather than pay for a room at York I no longer used. But this came at
a cost. A lot of the freedoms I had taken for granted at university had been taken away, I was in my parent’s house now, so I
had to play by their rules.
This anger turned out to be pretty toxic when combined with lockdown measures that were still in place, so to cope I turned
to my work at university. I thought that writing lecture notes and pitching ideas for the new modules in Summer term would
be a saving grace, but again I was proven wrong. My course, BSc (Hons) Film and Television Production, by its very nature, is
very practical heavy. That’s what I loved most about it, making TV shows in the space of 2 hours for studio practicals, or
getting used to working with Sony FS7 cameras for visual workshops, it was all part of my degree dream. But trying to recreate
this through a screen doesn’t quite work the same magic. I knew this going into Summer term, that lectures would be
different, practicals and exams were no longer an option, and that group activities would be more limited. But there was
another factor in play which made university work another obstacle rather than something I would enjoy. Internet connection.
I’ve previously said that I live in the middle of absolutely nowhere, and granted I get some lovely views of fields and natural
beauty- but that doesn’t help my course when what I really need is a stable bandwidth to watch my lectures. Needless to say
that stable bandwidth is a pipedream. Instead I see Zoom calls constantly labelled with “your internet is unstable” or I’m
kicked out entirely. The sound quality sounds less like a conversation and more like someone’s attempt at a sci-fi movie- a lot
of cracking, buzzing and popping noises with a few words in between. The worst part is that some content I cannot access at
all, some lectures would just be a blank screen or I would be unable to play the content no matter what device or search
engine I tried. So, I attempted to teach myself, google became my new best friend whenever it worked, and whenever it didn’t
work I’d be reading some academic film books I’d got from the Fresher’s Book Fair (thank goodness for old books from the
library).
However, just when I thought I had mastered the art of studying by myself/making notes from whatever worked, another
spanner was thrown into the works. My Dad is a key worker, and so has to work from his office some days, but now it’s
gradually transitioned to more work at home. Now this working from home involves a lot of Zoom calls, emails, phone calls
and other things involving the internet connection. This ended up taking up even more time from my studies as I could access
even less from the internet, and on some occasions my Dad would have to take my laptop entirely as his wouldn’t work and
he’d use mine. Now this I don’t mind, the laptop itself was a second hand gift from my Dad, and he’s also a key worker, so he
gets the priority with the internet and the devices. But it did and still does impede my studies. Unfortunately in these
unprecedented times all we can do is compromise.
Settling into these new routines has been challenging to say the least, studying and living in my old environment has not been
enjoyable. It’s tested my mental health and resilience to the brink on occasions. Especially coming from such a positive
environment as the university. But we all have to push through and keep strong in these times. I’m just coming to understand
that this is a temporary problem. Things can return to the way they were, but these things take time. We all need to
compromise, adapt, and be understanding to everyone around us so that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.



Life in Lockdown- 3 Step Change

Step 3: Mastering Lockdown


It’s been nearly 3 months of lockdown now. So plenty of time for me to find a ‘new normal’ and master the art of ‘not doing
anything’. And to be fair to myself I think I’ve managed to learn this skill pretty well. The key to this I’ve found is that if you
keep on doing stuff to distract yourself, you’ll find you’re actually being weirdly productive.
This applies to me with my course. During the first few weeks of lockdown I’d previously mentioned that I couldn’t do
anything because of my internet problem. The problem being there was no internet. But since then I’ve managed to find a
way around that. It means going through a few more hoops, but I’d rather go through those hoops and feel like I’m achieving
something rather than sit around and whine about my situation, because no one’s going to fix it for me other than myself.
Firstly, I attempted to co-ordinate with my Dad times where I could use the internet and times he could use it, so if he had a
meeting, I’d find something to do offline, namely editing as I am a film student. The TFTI department really helped with this, as
they gave students raw footage to practice with over the Summer. As I’ve said previously, as a film student with no previous
experience in the media industry, I’ve found this to be so beneficial as I could work at my own pace and experiment while not
consuming the all-too-precious resources of the limited internet we have. Then when I was online I signed up to Screen-Skills
masterclasses with industry professionals to network and hear about the industry, even if I couldn’t actively participate in it.
It’s actually worked really well, I’ve spoken to a camera operator for the BBC, a commissioner for Channel 4, and the costume
and art designers for “The Favourite”. Even if it’s not the interactivity level I’d like, at least I still feel like I’m making steps with
my career while also compensating with the family. Plus I’ve come to be much more grateful for things online now- even
listening to music on YouTube and Spotify I feel very lucky for. The time I spend offline I’ve also found to be beneficial; it gives
me a chance to read academic books, get creative and make some film content, learn editing techniques etc. I’ve also
managed to enter a 96 hour film competition with people on my course despite my lack of connectivity. I’m actually quite
proud of myself when I look back at what I’ve done in the past 70 or so days of lockdown.
I’ve also overcome some mental health barriers too which really took a toll on me during lockdown. I found myself to be
unbearably lonely, I don’t have the greatest relationship with my family, and a lack of connectivity with my friends from inside
and outside university made me feel incredibly alone, with no one to talk to. As such mentally I was really unhealthy, not
aided by a lack of academic work to do offline and living in a remote village which increased my feelings of isolation. But since
finding more work and ways around internet problems I’ve managed to turn myself around. I have to give my thanks to the
university for this. The TFTI department were the ones that made me aware of the online masterclasses with the BBC and
Screen-Skills, which gave me the confidence and inspiration to find ways to work around my virtual and physical isolation. This
also inspired me to get more involved with YSTV, which also helped improve my confidence around filmmaking and content
production. The university also pointed out the website Big White Wall to me, which is an anonymous messaging site for
people with mental health issues, and this really helped me explain how I was feeling to people without judgement. I even
managed to make an international pen-pal from this website as well, which really helped with my loneliness and isolation
problems.
So despite the obstacles I’ve faced during this lockdown period, both inside and outside of my academic sphere, the university
has stayed consistent in providing information and alternatives for students regardless of their situation, and this has really
helped to make the situation more bearable for me and other people. Although I have the odd blip here and there, and some
difficulty adjusting to new normals, I now feel as if I have the confidence and ability to navigate my academic career to my full
potential regardless of my environment, mental health and other factors. I am confident I can go on next year to achieve my
career dreams, and this is all down to the university, so thank you.