Studying at RGU during COVID-19

Journalism student Natalia recounts her experience of dealing with the first lockdown, the switch to online classes and other challenges in student life.

Our world changed suddenly in the early months of 2020. At that point COVID-19 was only seen in unimaginable videos of the deserted streets of China and the clear waters of the Venice canals.

The virus affected everyone in a different way. As a Spanish student living in Scotland, I knew what was going to happen in the UK before it happened. My parents and friends from back home kept me updated with the news, and I knew what was happening in Spain was soon coming to UK.

When RGU announced that teaching would be switched from on-campus to online on 17th of March, my family and I decided that it was best for me to go back to Spain. I booked a flight from Edinburgh, and left the UK two days later. Looking back at this time, I didn’t have much time to process what was happening, or to realise how serious the situation really was. I thought I was only leaving for a month – little did I know.

Studying during COVID - RGU Student Experience
Source: Shuttershock

When I arrived in Spain the situation was already much more developed than it was in Scotland. Everyone had to stay at home and people could only go outside for grocery or pharmacy shopping, or to walk their dog. The streets were empty, and the cities had an eerie feeling to them that would shortly be extended throughout Europe and the rest of the world.

When I arrived in Spain the situation was already much more developed than it was in Scotland. Everyone had to stay at home and people could only go outside for grocery or pharmacy shopping, or to walk their dog. The streets were empty, and the cities had an eerie feeling to them that would shortly be extended throughout Europe and the rest of the world.

Despite the situation, as a student I had to continue my studies. I was lucky enough that just a week before flying to Spain, I had finished a big team project and I only had one assignment left.

When I had to research information for my assignment, I knew the RGU library website had all the information required in terms of online resources. What I also found extremely helpful was the Facebook chat in which library assistants were responding to any question I had regarding report structuring and referencing.

Lectures and tutorials were still going on. The module co-ordinator recorded every lecture on Panopto and then uploaded them to Campus Moodle for us to watch them in our own time. Tutorial exercises were also made available to us and we could contact the module co-ordinator with our queries regarding the tutorials anytime. Lecturers were also available through Microsoft Teams, and they were happy to discuss any issues we had with the assignment.

Of course, despite having all these resources available to us, it was still challenging. I, like many other fellow students, had to adapt to living with my parents again and studying in their house after living on my own all these years. Not being able to go outside to get fresh air or see my friends in study breaks made the adaptation process more difficult and focusing on my assignment was, at times, impossible.

We were advised to schedule a routine to exercise at home and to allocate certain hours of the day for study time. However, it was still difficult to find the motivation to wake up early everyday when you could not go for a run in the morning, or for a coffee in the afternoon. And the fact that all I could read about in the news was COVID-19 did not help at all.

But, as I said, everyone had been affected differently by the lockdown restrictions and had to adapt to different situations.

Here is what some RGU students told me about their experiences:

“I was working as an intern in a company in Finland. My work was largely affected by the pandemic. The company had to abide by the government restrictions and thus I had to work from home for over two months. They also had to lay off two employees, which increased my workload – I was given more tasks and responsibility.”

Hanne Pulkkinen, 3rd year Fashion Management

“I started my Master’s programme not long before the pandemic outbreak. All our placements had been cancelled and we had to modify our research projects. However, one thing that got me through all this is the support I received from the RGU staff members and lecturers. They have been incredibly understanding and for this, I’m very thankful. It’s not exactly the year we had all planned, but we’re all doing what we can to get through it.”

Zahra AlShakhs, MSc in Clinical Pharmacy and Service Development

“I’d only been in Copenhagen for about a month and a half when this whole thing happened. My Erasmus, which was meant to be 5 months of fun in the Danish capital, turned into daily seminars on zoom and group assignments on Google hangouts.”

Marga Ortiz, 3rd year Journalism

“I was working on a placement with a local charity in Aberdeen as a media coordinator. The lockdown has affected my work as I wasn’t able to conduct interviews and had to find the motivation to work from home five days a week.”

Clara Maurillon, 3rd year Journalism

Undoubtedly, the support given by teachers and the resources available to students made this experience a bit less daunting. And while each of us adapted to the situation in our own way, we are still crossing our fingers to returning full-time to our riverside campus soon.

Keep up-to-date about COVID-19 advice for students, staff and community on the RGU website.

Natalia Núñez Bolaño

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