By Emma Rowley
In the three or so days after my university term ended and I was blissfully able to block out thoughts of the threat of COVID-19, I fell into a whirlwind 72 hours of chance encounters, starting with the ex-archbishop of Canterbury (the master of my college) offering me pastries at 7am after I’d finished my last essay as I tried to think of a way to politely refuse and go away to have a nap. When I woke up, I finally had time to randomly bump into people I’d grown to love, people I was beginning to know properly and people I’d never met but immediately enjoyed the company of- I found myself calling friends down from bikes to drag them into McDonald’s, chatting about Politics in Cafe Nero, exploring rooftop gardens, underground subways and orchards in colleges I’d not been to before and explaining my degree late at night during games of Mario Kart. I found myself having my last formal, where I talked for hours in the bar afterwards with long-established and well-loved friends and the people I was only just beginning to make connections with. It finally felt like the experience I’d been dreaming of, and since lockdown happened, all I’ve been able to think of has been those final, soul-lifting naïve days, and trying to think of ways to generate these random and fulfilling connections the university experience was designed to thrive upon.
In times where my days have drifted into laxing any self-control I had over my phone, trying to concentrate on supervision assignments I can’t find the energy to care about anymore and trying, desperately trying to learn about what I can to help others across the world from the comfort of my room, all I can think about is what I really miss about university and the experience it offers me.
Now the world has moved online, all I can think about is trying to smile and stay positive, building confidence to maintain connections in the quiet of a bubble. My advice- for now, take those opportunities online to connect to others, and be a bit braver in coming forward in trying to form friendships and connections. Know it takes a world of people to grow you, your heart and your mind, no matter how incredibly cheesy that statement reads- learn to love what the internet can do- allow you to grow better and love others in a way you never thought about before.