By Laurent Nassé, MA, Religion
Being a postgraduate student in the time of coronavirus has been many things, most of which being demanding, draining and, ultimately, disheartening. Sure, I enjoy my degree, but it’s lonely. I don’t use this lightly, it’s simply a side effect of doing an MA now.
I don’t live in Bristol so I can’t speak on what’s it’s like being in the heart of campus during the pandemic, but I doubt there would be a significant difference. Being in-between lockdowns and tier systems for the better part of a year, I can’t imagine many are able to say they’ve made many friends solely through their online studies.
While it’s gutting to know I’m financially unable to move to the city I’m studying in, it’s also sad to realise that the move would have ultimately been futile anyway. I’ve always enjoyed studying, and universities such as Bristol boast so much of everything I’ve been drawn to – beautiful libraries, a gorgeous city, and learning from people as passionate about a subject as myself.
How many of these enticing things really matter when moving in a time when you’re discouraged from leaving your house? Stay home and stay safe is an important message, but it is also the primary reason why I don’t believe doing a postgrad degree at this time is in everyone’s best interest.
You will not be getting the same experience as those who came before you, whether you’re interested solely in the academic side of university or the social side as well, you’re bound to be let down in one way or another because we’re unable to do half as much as we once were. Who wants to pay thousands just to be disappointed?
We’re halfway through this academic year and I’ve been given minimal opportunity to meet people on my course, consequentially left (albeit virtually) surrounded by people I don’t know, and often by those with friendships previously made in undergrad courses. I’m not able to physically meet and chat to people, or form any kind of connection to them that isn’t in a hideously awkward zoom call – and let’s be honest, those are awkward, small talk is the worst and we all know it.
I’m detached from my studies and even further detached from those I’m studying with
You can’t exactly make a good first impression when the backing track to your introduction is the recycling bins being emptied outside your window or your crazy dogs barking at their own reflections, your camera constantly freezing on facial expressions akin to a mid-sneeze at best, a pre tactical chunder face at worst.
Safe to say I’m not making any positive memorable impressions. I’m detached from my studies and even further detached from those I’m studying with. This really is lonely.
Not only has this year already been emotionally taxing and mentally exhausting, the question remains whether we are getting the most out of what we’re paying for. Limited library use, zoom lectures on dodgy internet connections, the endless struggle to access essential reading materials online when said access is constantly ‘denied’. For £9k? What a breeze, I’m having a blast.
My parents used to warn me that staring at a screen for too long would give me square eyes. Apparently, they lied, but instead, it will give you multiple migraines, the posture of a shrimp and the aches and pains of a frazzled 80 year-old. At 22, wiggling my body has me sounding like a Rice Krispy: snap, crackle, pop.
Honestly, I’m tired of having little – and difficult – contact with lecturers, feeling under constant time restraint in virtual calls. I’m tired of being confused and unable to talk to the people I only know the first names of. I’m tired of having limited access to things that were once unlimited, easily accessed and encouraged to be used.
I’m tired of being told it’s all worth it, that this level of teaching is the same as before, when before I was told an online presence was not enough and you had to be physically making the most of it all. I’m tired of being told this tiredness is the same as every other year, when we’re living in a pandemic and nothing is the same – except our academic experiences, of course. Taking a master’s degree in the time of corona is a joke, and I’m the butt.
Featured Image: Epigram / Tom Taylor
Has the pandemic made you reconsider taking a postgraduate degree? Let us know!