The recent pandemic (Covid-19) has impacted education systems in universities around the world. The impact has been dramatic for institutions, academics, and students looking for workable short term solutions for online teaching and learning. The unique challenge facing higher education encouraged DEN to look for opportunities to stay in contact with students using online facilities. Through the academic initiative, we invited students to meet and organise feasible and appropriate projects at this time. Using Inside Westminster we have agreed that students will write an article and or provide a 5 minutes video of their reflection and experience of Covid-19. We have encouraged students from all over the world to express their stories and share them with each other, hoping that this would provide a channel not only to learn but also to engage with each other. Hence, the following articles in this section are students’ reflections/experiences of Covid-19.
For all of us, the sudden shutdown of society due to Covid-19 has created an emptiness within our work, studies, and social lifestyles. All of us have created stories from the experience from lockdown, that be travelling back thousands of miles to be reunited with family, shielding from society, or working from home, this lockdown has given a chance for reflection on how we have persevered but also struggled with being apart for so long. I reflect on my experience of lockdown from working in a supermarket in Central London and the pandemonium of panic for basic groceries.
Before the talk of a national lockdown, my work life had already been thrown into chaos. My part-time job at Waitrose initially a lifeline for me had suddenly become vital to the distribution of essential food and goods. This sudden increase of footfall given the panic buying had seen desperation for Partners to work more hours to keep the store surviving. Given the university had moved towards online teaching and the increase of overtime had meant I moved into working almost full-time hours for much of the lockdown. Encountering longer hours, stressful shifts, and coming to grips with being the only person a Central line trains during peak hours put everything we do into perspective and for a reason.
Once the lockdown was introduced, my life revolved around Waitrose, early mornings to finishing hours later than scheduled had put a light on the seriousness of where we are at within our lives. Never would I have thought that my part-time job would become important for a couple of months, but it did. I have never felt prouder to have been working in the Partnership until the past few months and to know I delivered when it was most necessary. It has been the small moments which mattered to me, such as joking to managers about accidentally agreeing to work a Sunday evening on my birthday which led to them giving me a birthday cake and a gift as a thank you for the work myself and other partners were doing or experiencing the first of many ‘Clap for Careers’ as I stood by checkouts in my meat and fish apron clapping awkwardly. These high moments come at a cost, as around 90% of customers were understanding of the difficulties we were facing, it became much more common for anger to crack through frequently. The fear of Covid-19 and a possibility of a stricter lockdown to match the stringent rules set out by governments in Spain or Italy, the propositions set out by Number 10 were much more relaxed, however, this could change. The past few months have equated to some of the most stressful periods while working at Waitrose & Partners as my skill set was stretched across the store, as one shift was different from the next. Job roles included putting as much fruit and veg out as possible, cleaning fish on the counters, and watching the genuine madness over toilet roll. The truth is I enjoyed stepping up to learn more skills at Waitrose which I can apply for the future and am proud to be seen as making a small difference to people around London.
Partners joked around to me that I was practically living in the conference room in my branch but the reality was I used my workplace as an escape, an escape from the loneliness of lockdown, escape from the separation from family and an escape from the deconstruction of society. As families across the world reunite and spend time together, this was not an option for me, the chance for me to ask if I could work in a Waitrose closer to home disappeared instantly. Stuck in my London apartment because of the need for me to work and my need for income put myself in a situation which became common in my branch. For sure this became the hardest part of the lockdown, not the fear, but the inability to see my parents and brother at home which is only 20 minutes from Central London. My parent’s inability to use video calling methods meant my ear ached after an almost two-hour phone call from various family members.
While I increased my working hours at Waitrose & Partners, I did not lose sight of the other things I wanted to learn during my off time. Something I have always felt I missed my chance with was to learn another language, notably Thai. Even though I am still in the beginner stages with a lot to pick up and learn, the momentum is still there and something I hope to start during the lockdown and to continue for months to come. This period has increased my passion to learn more and to experience more.
Three months within our lifetimes seems minimal, however, given these circumstances, three months has become either life or death. To seize every opportunity has become a vital goal during my remaining years of university but also after I graduate. What I make of the future will become a reflection of the period in which the pandemic stopped the natural order of the world. As I mentioned at the start, this lockdown has provided us all with stories of how we coped, what we did, and what we must learn about ourselves. There is still so much to understand as we are still living in what is dubbed the ‘New Normal’ and I urge everyone to think and reflect on our lockdown stories.
By: Jamie Greenfield, BA (Hons) Politics