I clearly remember the time when I was preparing my application. From the very first day, I knew what I wanted. I wanted to study in the UK. After receiving acceptances from different universities, I had my eye on Westminster. I had heard about the diverse environment in this university, and the different social groups and activities that students can participate in. After living in 3 different countries, this seemed the ideal place for me to pursue my higher education. I was really looking forward to becoming part of this environment for the next 3 years! I was nervous. I was afraid that I would not be able to do everything I planned to. I wanted to participate in every possible thing related to my interests, and do my best in studies as well. So, I set goals.
The most crucial time for me was from February to July. These were the months when I had to really plan what is ahead of me. July was when my offer was unconditionally accepted. I remember when I received the email. I was more excited than ever! My first thought was, ‘hard work really does pay off’. So, what were the different expectations I had in mind? Honestly, I was hoping to start in September or latest October. Just like most students, I wanted to fully enjoy the first year of the university. This meant meeting the teachers and students, having the interesting lectures and seminars on different topics, spending time in the university libraries to study, socialize with classmates and try to make the environment even better with my presence.
I never expected to be studying in London but not physically being there. No one was really prepared for anything that this year has brought. Who knew that a ‘bat’ virus initially reported in Wuhan would soon be a pandemic, completely changing the lives of everyone around the world. March was when the first wave really began. Back then, the situation was not as severe in Georgia because the state immediately took the necessary measures including restrictions and lockdown. I assumed that since the UK is a developed country, it will definitely manage and soon I will be there. My hopes were up for this. Day by day, the cases were increasing and so were the deaths. The news showed how the UK hospitals were full of patients of Covid-19. I still did not lose hope. I knew that soon things will start to get better. In September, university began online. I was still just as excited to study what I really enjoy. So what if I will not be in campus right now? At least this way, everyone is safe.
Obviously, online was not the same. But when you know you will have online classes, your expectations automatically change. Mentally, I had already moved from Tbilisi to London. In the first couple of days, I would hesitate to participate much in seminars. Even if I had millions of ideas in my mind to share in discussions. Yet with time, I started to really enjoy the seminars, watching the pre-recorded lectures, and doing different assignments for the modules that I study this semester. The module tutors were indeed supportive and although it was not the same as on-campus learning, the discussions were engaging and interesting! Social media helped in socializing with classmates. Students started creating WhatsApp groups and adding one another on Instagram, Twitter and so on. Everyone was being very welcoming and supportive. I personally decided that I will not miss any chance, so I volunteered to become a Student Rep and joined Democratic Education Network! Even if it is online right now, it is only temporary.
Why should we stop ourselves from participation? Yes. Being in Tbilisi whilst studying in London is not the easiest thing. The time difference is not always so convenient. But giving up and losing effort is even easier. Clearly, I want to physically be there. But these past couple months have been very fruitful. I am now even more excited to join the campus! It has been a great journey so far, and I am sure that physically moving from Tbilisi to London will be an even more interesting journey.
Zohra Shamim, 1st year Politics and International Relations