As restrictions are slowly lifted and lockdown comes to an end, I think it’s safe to say that we’re all breathing a sigh of relief, as things start to return to a more ‘normal’ state. But as happy as we all are to be able to do the things we’ve missed out on for so long – as excited as we are to get back to uni or start a new chapter in our lives – 2020 so far has been so strange that I can’t help but feel as if I have gained a new perspective on numerous different facets of life as a student.
It’s great to reflect on our experiences, but what have we actually learnt? Read on for some of my favourite new ways of looking at life that I’ve developed because of lockdown. Maybe you’ll resonate with these lessons, or maybe you’ll have a completely different view of things. Are the main lessons you’ve learnt similar or different to mine? Let’s get a discussion started in the comments below!
1. Being introverted is okay. In fact, it can make you the happiest in certain situations.
In a world built for extroverts, it’s often difficult to notice the benefits of having your social battery recharged only through time spent completely alone. So many aspects of university life are full of activities that more sociable people thrive on – parties, having five other people to talk to while cooking dinner every night, and even assessment via presentations. But these things, while rewarding for many, are simply exhausting for some – none more so than introverts.
Whilst all my friends were disappointed at the thought of saying a premature goodbye to Union and simply dreaded the prospect of not being able to hang out at the pub every week, lockdown came at the perfect time for me as I’d recently been tiring myself out from too much socialising.
As lockdown began and we slowly realised it would be far longer than just 15 days, I was worried I’d get sick of seeing only my family. As time went on, I expected to start to feel lonely or wish I could go out more, but strangely, I felt entirely content spending long hours alone and only speaking to my nearest and dearest (with a spattering of Zoom quizzes, of course!).
This reminded me that just because a lot of people don’t understand that I actually enjoy spending time alone, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. It’s just that our world before COVID, designed for the outgoing, made us feel that way sometimes.
Now, with studying from home and online lectures taking the lead, introvert-friendly ways of life are being normalised, and that’s refreshing.
2. Following trends isn’t always a bad thing.
Baking bread. Boris’ 1-hour walk of the day. That frothy whipped Dalgona coffee. It was oddly predictable how often you could go on Instagram and see the exact same content from about 80% of your feed.
At some point, as reluctant as we were, even us deliberate trend-avoiders all got sucked into the lures of home baking and fancy drinks at some point and weren’t worse-off for it.
3. Long distance relationships aren’t as hard as you think.
Everyone at uni who has left for another town far away from their partner, or met someone here who lives across the country, will know how difficult long-distance relationships can be. Although lockdown was a trial of unprecedented magnitude for many relationships, it also reminded me that if the person you are with it truly right for you, they’re worth a few rainy days (or weeks) (or months). And the sun will only shine brighter when you finally get to see each other again.
And, if the distance becomes a catalyst for arguments or cause for breakups, it’s the silver lining you never knew you needed if it showed you that someone is not right for you.
4. You find out who your real friends are.
Just like your LDR partner in the previous point, distance can teach you a lot about your friends. When suddenly torn apart and flung to opposite ends of the country, distance acts as a test of who in your group of mates at uni genuinely cares about you (spoiler alert: they’ll make just as much effort to keep in touch with you as you do and talk excitedly about when you can next see each other).
This doesn’t necessarily have to be a disheartening experience, though. Sometimes, for me the chance to distance myself from toxic friendships during lockdown was exactly what I needed to step back and gain some perspective on what friendships were worth the effort, and which were simply being clung onto out of habit and a fear of letting go. Sometimes distance is what you need to make rational decisions about what’s truly best for your own happiness.
5. In times of pressure, we need to forgive.
Okay, repeat after me in your best Mean Girls voice: Hands up, anyone who’s been personally victimised by the grade safety net policy.
It’s safe to say, a large number of students weren’t happy with the university’s decision to implement a grade safety net only for people who happened to have already completed significant parts of their coursework before lockdown.
Ultimately, though, despite it not seeming like it at the time, the university were only doing what they genuinely thought was in our best interests. We had to encourage ourselves to remember that not one single member of the staff could ever have had training for ‘how to serve all students’ best interests in a global pandemic’.
These difficult times have forced us to try and see the bigger picture from others’ perspectives too. That can only be a rewarding learning opportunity, if we let it.
What are the lessons you’ve learnt from this strange period of our lives which have changed the way you look at the world? Do you agree or disagree with the learnings above? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so comment below!