This year is probably the weirdest years I’ve ever faced. Fortunately for me, I had a better understanding of how online delivery would run, how flipped and blended learning would be introduced and I could prepare for the potential of an unorganised course (due to lack of time and resources given to teaching staff on learning these new tools and technologies). I do feel very much for the students who had to face being pulled out of their exams, forced into quarantine and are now just becoming more independent and having to judge the world around them.

I won’t count Freshers as my first week as it basically didn’t exist. We had online events – that I completely missed the memo for so didn’t attend any – and some in-person events. I don’t think I’d have gone to any of the in-person events because at the moment everything just feels super awkward. I don’t want to go out and put my flat mate at risk, I don’t want to go out and put myself or others at risk. There are many rules, and while they seem simple enough to follow, being able to navigate them, remembering and trying to balance anxiety and nerves on top of it is just … well, exhausting. That’s not to say I haven’t been out – I have (following all guidelines, thank you very much), but I’ve been out with people I’ve met 6 months ago, rather than people who have hectically found the WhatsApp group chat I made six months ago, that used to only hold me and one other person. I’m not going to say it hasn’t been a bit daunting to go out. Being blamed for the spike can be pretty damaging and kinda frustrating – as you may have seen from my tweets – and it has stopped me wanting to go out and socialise as much as I want. This means, I’ve been stuck in my room staring at a wall.

I do like being alone. I don’t like paying Β£5.8k to be alone though. Especially when I have two in-person lectures which would cost me under Β£20 a week to get to. I have a flat mate, I’m meant to have three but the fourth person doesn’t exist and we don’t think the second one will move in due to the lockdown situation – I don’t really blame them because if everything is online, is there much point? Especially with the government trying to limit us from going out and having social lives (student wellbeing? anyone?) The cure for depression is the gym, right? But we can’t go to the gym? Hmmm.

So instead of me getting sarcy about the government (which I can do at any point, trust me), this was meant to be about my first week as an official university student studying the Education degree I fell in love with 10 months ago. I am honestly so glad I am still in love with the course. I had a lot of doubts the first two weeks living here on whether or not I made the decision. Seeing the professors again just made me realise that this wasn’t a mistake, I was doing the right thing and despite everything, I am really happy to be here.

My first lecture was at 9am on a Monday (right?!) and it was in-person so I had to make the journey from my accommodation to campus. While it’s a really lovely 45-minute walk, it’s only about a 20-minute bus journey and getting up that early from sleeping in until [redacted] since leaving the college, I was definitely taking the bus. Luckily, one of my friends had shown me the next bus stop (the bus right outside my accommodation is not running due to road closure), so I was able to get there as the bus drove into the stop. Very good timing on my behalf. After the journey, I obviously got lost. The WhatsApp group chat became handy as someone else had found the building – that someone else ended up being someone who was … on the same bus as me. I should have known.

It turns out it’s not just Blackboard and Teams we’re using as platforms to study… we’re also using Panopto. In my opinion, this is way too much. Before every lesson, we’re constantly asking each other which platform we need to go on to watch the lecture and it’s just not streamlined. Now, I am not saying you could do all of this with G-Suite for free, but you could do all of this with G-Suite for free. I watched a Computer Science student get very confused about a recording… which ended up in Microsoft Stream. That’s 4 different platforms for the same thing. But maybe that’s just a me issue.

The rest of Monday was online delivery so kind of went by fairly quickly. A lot of it was mainly introductory (and when we were told to make the reflection blog) so there wasn’t much content to soak in – more, here are the assignments you need to do by this deadline, this is what this module is about, etc. I slept very well Monday night. I really need a routine and being able to create one while maintaining a social life and keeping up with work will be difficult but it needs to be done.

Tuesday I finally applied to be a course representative! My manifesto is quite weak as we only got 5 lines and 50 words to talk about what we wanted to do. Those who know me know I’m very student focused and I mainly want to be a course rep so I can support people within the course and make sure students are at the centre and their wellbeing is prioritised and feedback is valued. That was effectively my manifesto, you’re welcome. I didn’t realise we’d actually have to campaign or it would be voted in with the other Students’ Union stuff, but we’re here for new experiences, are we not? I am not sure if it’s cross-uni or just within the course the votes are taken in by but I guess it’s experience for when I get the courage to run for something higher up within the Students’ Union.

I had work on Wednesday which I ended up supporting with tech and running some parcels up for students who are currently quarantining. It was quite cool to see the postgrad halls as I’ll probably go into them when I look into taking my masters after my degree. I did a mini training session on Sharepoint (I’ve never used Sharepoint previously so we learn together) and they basically said they’d call me back if they needed more help so I do like that I am still doing some tech stuff despite wanting to be a student. One of my worries was I’d be used as the techy person (which has happened a lot while being a student in courses) rather than being able to learn with the class. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love helping people and I find it very rewarding (I’m doing an Education degree) but I need a separate identity as a student and I just want to be a student. All my new friends are very supportive of my history and are first to read any published articles but it’s nice to just be Lottie here. But despite all that, it was nice to be able to sit with someone and learn something new and make them feel more confident. I really miss that.

On this topic, my digital professor already knows who I am. He got me to explain Flipgrid (as we had a Flipgrid task) and as I mentioned working at an ‘further education college’ he name dropped it and that’s when I knew he knew. It’s funny to me but I suppose it is useful for him to know and this module is something I am super excited for and can’t wait to explore more into. He also called me Charlie so looks like I might need to change my Twitter handle after all.

I mentioned it previously, but I think a routine is something I definitely need to try and establish. It’s hard to admit, but regarding my wellbeing, I’m not doing as well as I tell people I am: I’m not eating well, I am struggling to sleep and when I do, struggling to wake up, being in Southampton not knowing many people is not as great as I hoped it would be. I’m using online diaries, physical diaries, planners and creating as many lists as possible but sometimes I just need to go home. And I do. I’m not ashamed of that. I’ve been home three times already to just help me adjust. I bring my washing home and my mum feeds me – I’m a typical uni student now. I’ve been really hard on myself for not being able to adjust as quickly as I wanted to. I always think about how I’m almost 23, an adult, and I really need to be quicker at this stuff but I really don’t. No one looks at me and thinks, “well, Lottie is 23, she should have this together”, they just look at me and say “I’m struggling, too – maybe we should go for a walk”, and it’s not something I expected to have happened. My previous manager always told me I needed to slow down. Just slow down. You don’t have to go that fast. He’s right, I don’t. I just need to be the person reminding myself of that now.

I have more ambassador casual work to do this week. Friday and Sunday and I’ll be home for Saturday to see my mum and just take a day out of being a student. It’s probably a bad idea to keep myself this busy but we all knew I was going to do it. Next week is another week I can start fresh, maintain a routine, eat a little more, sleep a little earlier and hopefully get stuck in with all the content goodness.

See you next week.