From the moment final year starts there is a bittersweet feeling. You’re in a house with some of your best friends, you’re going on different nights out, joining new societies, making new friends, and pretty much just having a blast (aside from when deadline seasons come around). It finally feels like you’ve got it right. Yet, underlying everything you do there’s a small feeling of melancholy, that this is the last of everything. The last Humanities Ball, the last Christmas meals, the last chance to go on tour, the last Varsity, the last subject ball and the last Media Ball. With the closure of the university and the move to online only teaching, we don’t even get that. Our last of these events happened a year ago and we didn’t even realise.
The last week has been hard for me. As the Events Officer for EngSoc, Deputy Editor for Wessex Scene, and Events Officer for the Media Ball, I’ve had to cancel a lot of stuff in the space of a week. First, and still most painfully, was the EngSoc and PhilSoc tour to Athens. A small committee worked tirelessly to organise this tour and I definitely sacrificed my degree a little bit in semester one to put my heart into it, so having to make the decision to cancel it was devastating to say the least. Since then, EngSoc have cancelled our quiz, a decision was made to cancel Media Ball and we’ve decided that we won’t be physically printing any more Wessex Scene magazines. It seems that every day I’m sending yet another email to another company apologising that I have to cancel my booking with them due to the pandemic. I know almost every society will be experiencing the exact same thing right now.
In the same period, we’ve also seen the cancellation of Varsity and Grad Ball. For final years, this is our last Varsity and our only Grad Ball. It’s safe to say the feeling amongst final years right now is a sense of deflation and lack of motivation.
We’ve worked so hard for the past two and a half years and we’ve lost the best part of the academic year – it feels like we’ve lost our reward for putting in all this work.
I know I’m not alone when I say it is hard to motivate yourself to do university work with all of this going on. Events that we’ve looked forward to for months have been cancelled and we don’t even know if we’ll get a proper graduation out of it. How we’ll take our exams, other than them being online, is unsure and our whole futures seem very up in the air right now. How are you supposed to motivate yourself and think about doing work when there is a pandemic going on? Our thoughts are on the news and the safety of our loved ones, not writing an essay or putting lots of mental energy into researching a dissertation. There is no doubt that our grades will take a hit from this in the most heavily weighted year, and how will the university deal with this? We still don’t know.
From 6 weeks worth of strikes to the university moving online, we’ve had barely any teaching. I had been looking forward to my double module in second semester since I first saw it was being offered while I was in second year. From strikes and coronavirus, I have had a total of three weeks teaching on that module, and I feel incredibly cheated by that. How do I write an essay based on three weeks of teaching? How will I complete an exam, online, based on three weeks of teaching? Honestly, I have no idea.
A lot of people have it worse right now, I’m very aware of this, and I am so unbelievably thankful that, at least for now, my family are safe and well, and this will always be my top concern throughout the coming months of uncertainty.
This doesn’t, however, change the feeling of being cheated. We’ve been cheated of our final year. We’ve been cheated of our last events, the final months spent with our housemates, our final Oceana Wednesdays and Jesters nights out, our final nights sat in Charcoal Grill at 2am messily eating cheesy chips (and the best garlic sauce there is).
I think it’s normal to want a redo, I sure do. I want a chance to learn all the content for my Holocaust Literature module. I want a chance to go to Grad Ball and graduation. I want to go on tour and cheer my pals on at Varsity. I want to be able to distribute all the hard work Wessex Scene have put into our magazines. I want to go to Media Ball and celebrate this work. I want one more chance to lie on the sofa with a raging hangover, cup of tea in hand, trying to piece together the night out with my housemates and marking up any chunder chart offences.
From speaking to a lot of my friends and reading social media, it’s clear that a lot of final year students feel cheated out of their last year and sad because of it. The thing about being a final year student is that we knew this was all coming, we knew we would eventually have to face all our ‘lasts’, we just didn’t realise it had already happened.