A Year Unparalleled

By Livina, 19, London, UK

In a time like this, it’s hard to distinguish how much you’re missing out on when in the midst of new experiences; I don’t know any different but I’m aware it is not what it should be. The majority of my new experiences since the start of the first lockdown have been encompassed in my first year at university; preparing for it, moving city, making new friends, beginning my course, adapting to independence etc… This September I will be progressing to my second year at the University of Bristol and in this small break, I’ve taken the opportunity to reflect on the year passed.

For me, come late September 2020, there was an eagerness to go to university like none before. We had been locked in our houses since March, deprived of a farewell to the school I had been in since I was 11, stripped of real A level exams and results and were filled with uncertainty of what a first year at university might even look like. Nonetheless, I was more than excited by the prospect of something different. Whilst I am mindful of my privilege here, some of the more frustrating elements of the first lockdown for me were the monotony and boredom and the loneliness that transpired. So despite how unclear the plunge into university appeared to be, I was keen to accept my place for this year.

Particularly coming from London, changing city was an adventure in itself; one I had almost forgotten to consider. New modes of transport, new accents, new scenery (new hills) and a whole new demographic were a lot to adjust to but fascinating to explore. I’d never been around quite so many mullets and skaters before. Uniquely to this year, I imagine, there was much more opportunity to explore the natural parts of the city because very quickly shops, pubs, bars and all other non-essential places were closed. Bristol, however, is blessed with numerous gorgeous green spots and a beautiful harbourside which never lost its novelty as the sun began to shine over it.

Meeting people in such circumstances could go one of two ways. Undoubtedly for many, this year presented a distressing lack of opportunity to meet new people. Online learning meant you could not meet your coursemates, freshers events were all cancelled and fear of transmitting the virus prohibited people from mixing living circles. Everybody knows by now, you can’t make friends in a breakout room. Otherwise, there were various other hindrances that made you far more socially dependent on those you were assigned to live with than you would ever be in a normal year.

My situation was fortuitous as I happened to be put in a block with an amazing group of people who were determined not to let the circumstances prevent us from enjoying our first year as we should. I happened to have a coursemate only a few doors across from me who I’d sometimes do my online classes with. Throughout the year, the block came up with various dress-up themes and day activities and movie nights and drinking challenges we could do to keep ourselves entertained. From all this, I truly believe Corona has allowed me to secure and strengthen friendships in a way we are not really forced to in other years. In what other circumstance would I be obliged to isolate for ten days in a block full of 18-20 year olds that I’d known for less than a month?

Whilst I know much of this is truly a nightmare for many and by no means am I grateful for this pandemic - there have been various instances of hopeless frustration that nothing ever seemed to be looking up - it has taught me a lot of lessons. I have learnt how to find fun in what seems like nothing and engage with things I might often ignore. I have become more creative in ideas and less reserved with how I might choose to spend my time. It has bonded me irrevocably with certain people I have met this year and may otherwise not have gotten to know. Most significantly, however, I had never before quite acknowledged the very simple luxury of company. 

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