Two weeks into Easter term but six weeks into lockdown, it is tricky to know how to feel. Cambridge students are used to a dip in energy near the end of term – the classic ‘week five blues’. However, without the excitement of returning to Catz or the buzz of reunions with friends to mark the break between the holiday and Easter term, I have to admit that weariness has set in early.
I now find myself preparing for my History finals in my childhood bedroom; at the same desk where I slaved for my A-Levels, fretted over my GCSEs, and even attempted my first piece of homework in year 7, I am now writing undergraduate coursework and revising political theory. Last week I submitted my dissertation online and popped a bottle of champagne with my parents rather than partying with my friends as I had anticipated. It is a strange feeling.
While finishing my university experience in lockdown is an anti-climax, it is also far removed from the pressure cooker that is Cambridge in exam season. In the face of a pandemic, the stress of finals – while still there – seems minor. Two of my assessments have been cancelled, the University’s ‘no detriment’ policy means that I can’t do worse than last year, and my one remaining exam will be taken online from the comfort of my own bedroom. This is nothing like the tense exam environment to which I have become accustomed. Perhaps such changes can teach us something about how to assess students in the future?
Everyone is having to adapt to remote working. Supervisions are taking place on video calls, lectures are being recorded, and researchers are learning how to navigate online libraries and archives. In preparing my coursework on Indian democracy, I have had to rely on digitized material and disregard anything that can only be found in print – something for which I was never prepared. But I, just like everyone else, have managed. This learning curve has proven just how adaptable we can be; it has taught us new skills for the future, whatever that may look like.
The start of term has also proven how resilient the Catz and Cambridge communities are. The College JCR is still working to represent students, the welfare team has put together some great resources to support students remotely, and it has been made clear that the Tutors and Directors of Studies are just an email away. In a similar way, the University rugby club (I play front row) has made me feel part of the Cambridge community even while actual rugby is banned. Our virtual socials and daily strength and conditioning workouts maintain the feeling that we are all in this together, even whilst we are apart.
My final term at Cambridge is going to be like none other. I miss the independence, the College, my friends and the real libraries! But I also appreciate how lucky I am to have access to resources from home, a Catz community that has gone virtual, friends and teachers putting in the effort to make the term the best it can be, and good health. I cannot wait to return to Catz and graduate with my fellow finalists when this is all over – we will all truly deserve it.