We are all aware of the pandemic’s drastic impact: the halt of social and professional lives, job losses, changes in living situations, and the untimely demise of loved ones. These unwelcome changes have wrought our existence with uncertainty. Yet, these are only some consequences of the pandemic. COVID-19 has shattered lives, disrupting countless aspects of it.
Unstable well-being and the drawbacks of limited socialisation are two key examples of COVID-19’s wider impact. COVID-19 has also hindered education. The education industry encountered remarkable obstacles. Considering the difficulties overcome, it is a feat that educational institutions swiftly adapted to teaching remotely.
As an international student, it was impossible to fathom completing an academic year from my home country. I was fortunate enough to arrive in Muscat prior to the travel ban. However, as I was studying abroad, I faced obstacles in remaining at home. Despite my gratitude for enduring lockdown at home, I dealt with disruptions to my education.
Like most students, I was unprepared for these hindrances. As my classes were conducted abroad, my initial challenge was adjusting to a different time zone. This caused more difficulties than anticipated as I needed to be awake at late hours to attend classes. To compensate for late hours, I had to sleep throughout the day. Privacy also became an issue when needing to switch on webcams for attendance. This requirement muddied the distinction between personal and professional life, allowing strangers a glimpse into private spaces.
Remote learning also caused teaching challenges. Teachers attempted to address students’ learning needs, but online classes could not compare to in-person classes. Face-to-face discussions and in-person attendance contribute to a fruitful learning environment. Moreover, online learning was particularly arduous for those studying courses requiring in-person participation (eg medicine). Most institutions struggled during the global shift to online teaching. Accordingly, teaching was briefly paused in numerous schools.
This disruption (in conjunction with the unfamiliarity of online assessments) led to poor performance for many. Online assessments were an alien concept for students and teachers alike. The issue of unfamiliarity intensified the general anxiety regarding examinations. Numerous students did not fare as well as hoped due to this.
Being an international student, I lost access to my university’s facilities (eg the library). Many required books and materials were unavailable because I was in a different country.
Additionally, during examination periods I required a quiet study space. Finding silence in a full house proved challenging. Being unable to participate in societies and clubs was also disappointing. Joining societies and clubs is pivotal – it expands one’s horizons, encouraging non-traditional learning. It also cultivates diverse interests, promoting self-development. Losing access to such amenities was another shortcoming of online education.
Finally, separation from peers added to the regrets of remote education. Socialisation is a significant aspect of the traditional school experience – being unable to be amongst peers dulled the pleasures of student life.
Admittedly, some sacrifices mentioned are trivial compared to the ordeal other students endured. Those unable to return home confronted living alone for multiple months.
Many international students faced lockdown in their student accommodation’s constrained spaces. However, lockdown was graver for students who did not reside in communal accommodations. Such students had minimal contact with the outside world due to complete isolation.
Year 2020’s graduating classes also experienced the blow of accepting they could not celebrate graduating. The inability to commemorate special occasions eliminated the joy of reaching milestones. Similarly, the inability to bid farewell to teachers, fellow classmates, and friends was another disappointing reality for 2020’s graduates.
COVID-19 has been taxing to navigate. It’s abruptness was trying for most. However, through its challenges, COVID-19 helped humanity build resilience. It taught valuable lessons due to its hardships. Had life continued ‘normally’, these lessons would not have been learnt.
As a student, COVID-19 interrupted various aspects of my life. However, it also taught me to adapt to unfamiliar circumstances. I am certain this skill will serve me in future.
Due to COVID-19’s consequences, we have persevered in the trials of adversity. We may collectively desire to return to ‘normal’, but we must acknowledge that we are headed towards a better ‘normal’. Indeed, COVID-19 has altered the course of most lives. Post-pandemic life may be different – but perhaps it is for the best.
Mezoon Badar Munir Zakiuddin, LLB Law Programme, Keele University
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