Storying Sheffield

Returned year abroad

Before lockdown—18/10/2019

The urgency and buzz of university is just incredible isn’t it? The pressure to do well and keep to deadlines has become an unbelievable motivator for me. The stress of revising, finding the exam hall, sitting the exam, and completing the labs on time are what uni is all about for me and it’s what I find so great about the whole thing. Not only do I get this incredible buzz, but I get to do it in one of the hottest countries in the world, with all these amazing people. Don’t get me wrong uni is hard, I miss key bits of content because the lectures move so fast, and Australian uni is so different and not at all what I am used to but wow, I still can’t believe I’m actually here, studying abroad. The societies are amazing too, structuring my work and days around the next social, wondering what to dress up this time, not to mention tour at Easter break. If you haven’t joined a society yet, you really should, it’s one of the best parts of uni and leaves you with such great memories.

During lockdown – 25/04/2020

Lockdown hit about 6 weeks ago now and I’ve been back in the UK for about 7 of them. All the borders were closing, and I was NOT getting stuck out there during a pandemic. I’ve managed to successfully complete all my exams, mind they were all open book, but they did take place at 7 am (time zones hey) so I am extremely proud of myself for completing them and not completely bottling it. I feel so disappointed that it all happened so fast, my time in Australia was cut so short and I never got to say goodbye to my friends out there, it’s not exactly like it’s something you can do every year, but I do feel the experience was life changing and helped me to grow as a person. I chose to come back early but saying that, the decision was not by any means an easy one, and I just wish Sheffield uni had given me way more support in helping me decide whether to come home or not. I came back to this whole new uni system, not only had I been studying at a completely different uni but now all teaching was online, and it was so hard to adjust. We didn’t have the opportunity to just ask questions like we would in normal years, so figuring out difficult things took 10 times longer than it should have, which was really annoying. There was this safety net policy to ensure we didn’t do too badly but at first, I couldn’t even decide if it applied to me or not, being a year abroad student. It was so stressful. The motivation to study completely disappeared and I could hardly focus, so my grades dropped a little, so I was thankful for this policy in the end and felt lucky because my friends in the Australian uni didn’t have any policy so just had to try and increase their grades by working together more. I was thrown into the deep end a bit really, I went from having complete independence and my own space to living with my family again which was so frustrating, but I am so lucky to have gotten to spend 6 months catching up with them when I hadn’t seen them in nearly a year. Despite everything, lockdown has given me time to reflect and I’ve come to realise that I did make the most of my experience and I know how lucky I am to have gotten that opportunity.

Blended learning – 7/10/2020

Returning to Sheffield was a massive shock to the system. Its normal to forget content over the summer break but this was a new level. Here I was trying to revise content I’d forgotten not only over summer, but also in a pandemic and year away. It was awful. To make things harder, the leap from undergraduate to masters was insane, structuring and managing my time during the project and lectures is so challenging and the project seems more work heavy than UG. Labs are difficult normally but now, they’re on a week-on, week-off basis, so trying to find time to do lectures is impossible. The only contact hours I have are project labs and even then, half my friends aren’t in because they have projects that don’t need labs. The department feels a bit like a ghost town, it’s practically empty, especially with the slightly over the top one-way system. In the first week back, I got covid. Isolation wasn’t the best experience I can’t lie but at least I had to isolate with my entire 9-person house and I didn’t really miss that much because my research project start date just got moved forward a week and my supervisor will consider this in my assessments anyway.

Online lectures are so strange, aren’t they? They’re not actually bad, really I find I’m learning more effectively and am engaging more with the content than before, as I can pause the recordings and write notes at my own pace, but the guidance is just not there with everything being self-led. Everything feels so different to previous years. The way lectures are delivered varies so much, with some being 20-minute chunks and some being nearly 2 hours so it’s hard to keep on track of everything and be proactive in asking the right questions in workshops or Q&As. The efforts lecturers have gone to to give us a good education is amazing, and I think I speak on behalf of all students to say we appreciate it. To me, libraries seem a bit pointless; 3-hour slots and wearing uncomfortable masks the entire time, doesn’t seem fun and I bet I wouldn’t get any work done anyway. You can’t even look at an actual book (understandably), everything is about screens nowadays and it would be so nice to be able to read an actual chemistry textbook for once.  The biggest downside to this uni experience, is the social aspect. Joining societies this year didn’t even cross my mind. What’s the point? You can’t do any socials or meet anyone anyway and I can’t even see my rugby friends because training is non-existent and the weather is so rubbish, so outside meetings are a no go. On the positive side, it does mean I spend more time with my housemates, and we do try to make the most out of a bad situation. House quizzes, movie nights, jigsaw days and cooking competitions have really helped to boost our mood, so I would definitely recommend! A big worry is getting a job. I keep telling myself that although the timings and structures are weird this year, the knowledge and skills gained should be the same. It’s just the fact, the economy is crashing that worries me. There’s less jobs as it is and although employers might be considerate of covid now, in 10 years-time everyone is going to have forgotten about it in terms of jobs, even though right now it’s baffling how anyone could forget a time like this.