Coronavirus: Through the eyes of a postgrad student
Kelli Wolfe | University of Roehampton
I’m the type of person who always tries to “look on the bright side”, find the “silver linings” or generally embody Pollyanna in all ways. In the current climate, that can be a challenge for us all, especially those not naturally inclined towards a positive outlook.
As a student on the current AUA PgCert Cohort, I’ve found myself looking at the Covid-19 crisis from a much more macro-level than I previously might have. The ways in which the pandemic has tested our business continuity plans, highlighted our communication strengths and black holes, and unearthed attitudes and assumptions about remote working are just a few aspects that have intrigued me from a critical practitioner perspective. Most poignant of all, though, has been the added stress and uncertainty I’ve felt as a postgraduate student. The increased stress of the day job, upended home life and sudden 24-7 caring responsibilities of a school-age child, not to mention jostling for workspace with my husband, have all been a barrier to keeping the momentum going on coursework while the world is literally changing from one day to the next.
For those who see professional development as a luxury, something “nice to have” in an ideal world, I would challenge us to think of it from the opposite side. When crisis hits, and we knuckle down to what’s important, it’s an ideal opportunity to clarify for ourselves what are our biggest priorities.
This experience has really given me a bit of insight into – and empathy for – how our students may be feeling. Many of them, especially but not exclusively our postgrads, are working full-time in addition to their studies and complicated family lives. The added uncertainty, stress and fear may be pushing an already vulnerable, overstretched student and making what was a difficult ask to begin with simply impossible at this time. This has implications for our work in supporting those students, but also in how we support each other.
In my typical Pollyanna way, I’ve ironically found solace in my coursework despite the added complications. Though difficult at first to set aside the compulsive news watching and constant WhatsApp messaging with our – now socially distant – friends and colleagues, diving back into my assignments has been a welcome distraction from Covid-19 overload. It is something I can actually impact when so much else is out of my control at the moment. For those who see professional development as a luxury, something “nice to have” in an ideal world, I would challenge us to think of it from the opposite side. When crisis hits, and we knuckle down to what’s important, it’s an ideal opportunity to clarify for ourselves what are our biggest priorities. What gets us out of bed each morning. What we want to invite more of into our lives when this crisis is over.