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Covid-19 - My Thoughts and Experiences

    15 May 2020

Covid-19 - My Thoughts and Experiences

This week's note has been written by Emilie, Year 12

We are currently experiencing what could be seen as the biggest restriction of civil liberties for our generation since the Second World War. As a student nearing the end of my secondary education, these unprecedented circumstances have given rise to a whole new set of opportunities and challenges which I am interested in documenting; and as a senior pupil, I thought I might share with you.

I have now been in lockdown for 51 days. Before lockdown was announced on 23rd March 2020 I sensed a rapidly increasing uneasiness in the wider community as to what would happen in order to curb the spread of the virus. This uneasiness was very noticeable and lead to uncertainty in many aspects of my life, particularly how my school, part-time work and home life could potentially change over the next couple of months. I was shocked at how unbelievably quickly the situation evolved, quicker than any other newsworthy event I had ever experienced in the past and how something invisible could infiltrate and effectively shut-down modern society as we know it, in a matter of a few weeks, across the globe.

The media was full of negativity and bad news - what would happen if we didn’t ‘Protect the NHS’ and stay at home, the daily infection rates and numbers of deaths attributed to the virus. Early on, and in order to stay positive, I felt it was important to limit my time on social media and limit my exposure to the news, as a way to protect my mental health and levels of anxiety. There has been an increased level of ‘fake news’ and ‘conspiracy theories’ around the topic of COVID-19 and trying to decipher which was a reliable source was difficult therefore I found just listening to one news channel and the direct government messages was the best way to gain information and keep informed.

Overall, I consider that I am one of the very lucky ones. My experience of COVID-19, to date, has not been anything particularly out of the ordinary, and none of my immediate family have been ill. However, it has had a profound effect on me and will have a long-lasting impact on the way that I view the world. My mother and step-father both work from home and neither are key workers. My grandparents, although some are vulnerable and have underlying health conditions, are safe at home and are well supported. I have had worries, but I have also had some great experiences and opportunities as a result of the last 7 weeks.

At the outset, the uncertainty around education was clearly at the forefront of many peoples’ minds including my own. Before the Prime Minister announced that schools were to close, I was worried about how COVID-19 would affect my studies, being right in the middle of my A-Level courses, especially if the school were to close. However, there was a clear plan set out by my teachers as a contingency, which provided the much-needed reassurance at the time. This meant by the time lockdown was initiated, I was much more relaxed as I knew roughly how my school life would continue to work. Zoom lessons commenced with a new timetable providing a much-needed structure to the day.

Structure has been absolutely essential for me and adding variety to my day has been really important. There have been many changes to my daily routine both easy and difficult to adapt to. I enjoy the extra time I have to dedicate to areas of my life that I previously wouldn’t have given as much thought to, in particular, exercise. I have found one of the best ways of coping with the restriction on freedom is to spend more time running and walking. I dedicate an hour or so of my evening to going on a long run, allowing myself to get the exercise I need to stay both mentally and physically healthy. In addition to this, the extra time around lessons I use for the much-needed reading that needs to be done by a Year 12 student.

In Year 12, only a small proportion is actually spent in lessons and a lot is research and self-study time. I found it very important to create a set structure to my day in order to use my time effectively, and not just spend hours in front of the computer. The level of support given by my teachers has been fantastic especially as I know that others at different schools and Colleges have not been so lucky. My Zoom lessons have been really enjoyable and definitely reduced my anxiety around being able to continue my studies.

I was initially worried about the ability to complete my A-Level courses on time, in enough depth and also applying to University. As time has gone on it has become clear that there is a silver lining. The time at home has given me much needed time to dedicate to extra research into both my A-Levels, but also my University and University course choices. Admittedly I am still worried about choosing a University, as it isn’t possible at the moment to go on open days. But to combat this, there have been many helpful webinars and online courses that I have attended in order to keep myself focused and less anxious, and also the extra University research time that has been scheduled into our timetable.

One of the greatest challenges I have found personally was to keep motivated and positive, especially in times where there was a lack of structure to my day. When it came to the Easter holidays, I found that time seemed to almost merge into one in the first couple of days, as I had not established a clear structure without my timetabled lessons. Therefore, in this time, my family and I set up a weekly Saturday Zoom ‘Great British Bake Off’ where we would Zoom call and bake a chosen recipe and see who’s turned out better. So far our efforts have included Anzac Biscuits, Focaccia bread and Viennese Whirls. We even made a quarantine inspired ‘loo-roll cake’ for my Step-father’s birthday and cakes to donate to the local hospital and key workers. This allowed the whole family to be able to spend time together, although in different houses, and also have something to look forward to on a weekly basis. A lot of things revolve around food in our house, and when you aren’t sure what day of the week it is, then why not declare it Christmas, which is what we did on the 4th April, when we had a full Christmas celebration with dinner, crackers, a tree and mince pies!

I also rediscovered how to ride a bicycle – something I haven’t done since I was about 13! The quieter roads and country lanes, and the fortuitous good weather has given me more freedom to explore the local area with my sister. In addition to this, my Mum and I took our dogs on daily walks over the break, providing downtime to talk and make constructive plans to help with my studies. This was immensely beneficial in relieving anxiety and is something we have continued back into term time too, once I have finished the lessons for the day.

I have spent the last seven weeks at home, I have laughed and cried, eaten too much, not slept because I have been worried, danced in the kitchen, clapped for the NHS, and played ‘delivery slot bingo’ with Sainsbury's and Tesco. I miss my friends, I miss my grandparents, I miss Sherfield, I miss my part-time job and driving lessons, but I am very lucky. I am healthy, my family are healthy, and I feel safe and secure. My life has slowed down, but I have been able to appreciate things more.

To conclude, there are lots of sources offering guidance out there on how to cope, but my main tips would be:

  • Try and stick to a routine – have a plan for the day that includes study and relaxation;
  • Get out at least once a day, even if it’s just for a walk;
  • Stay hydrated and eat well;
  • Limit social media time and find a few trusted news sources;
  • Notice the good in the world, and if you can, do something to help, however small;
  • Have a tidy workspace and keep it organised – it’s in your control when everything around may seem chaotic;
  • If you need help, ask for it – we all need help sometimes;
  • This is temporary, it will end, and we will feel reconnected again in the future.

Stay safe, look after yourselves.

News Sixth Form

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