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.
During the lockdown, a friend made a statement that has stuck with me. “The removal of our freedoms has made us free”. What he meant was that being removed from society created a situation where individuality had prospered. I have come to realise how right he was.
During the last four months, we had our ability to be present in a stripped-down society. We became a nation of people trapped in their houses. The power that people and industries hold over society was lost. We began to dress for comfort, exercise for health not looks, it allowed people to reclaim their humanity and we rediscovered the beauty of nature. The coronavirus took our loved ones prematurely but may have given us another reason to live. Like every major disaster in history, people stop and realise what they want, whether that be in our personal lives or society as a whole.
During the lockdown, we made time for the people we cared about, not the ones we have to see due to our education or work. There was an influx on social media of people creating little businesses to show off their hobbies. Most notably there was the biggest driving force behind the BLM movement seen in my lifetime. Time and life became sacred like never before, our health was the catalyst that destroyed the society we thought was unbreakable.
Like many, I have now returned to work, but it is not the same atmosphere as when we left. People are more cautious, yet more friendly. We have seen the return of the community. No longer do workers represent a company, it is very clear that customers see us as individuals. “How are you?” is no longer a passing phrase, it is being asked with real empathy. But in reality, these people are strangers who care about your wellbeing. It has only been a week, yet it is clear that corona has made people more understanding and patient.
It is too early to tell if the realisations about society will create lasting change, or if it will simply be a bump in the capitalist road. Never before have people seen the world alter so dramatically, never have we been able to rid our thoughts from societal distractions and, for many, never have we been so in touch with our communities. I do hope that coming out of this we will see a renewed effort in tackling climate change, investing in our mental health and continuing to fight for the minorities in society. The change starts with us and this was your time to focus on what you truly want from the one life you’ve been given.
By Alexandros Haros, Alumni of the University of Westminster