It’s hard for me to imagine what it would have been like to study at Leeds Beckett without a pandemic. I often hear about all the ways in which things were done differently prior to Covid-19, but for me, my reality has been vastly different. However, I have found ways to embrace the change and make the most of the new normal.
As soon as my arrival in October, I knew that this would be an interesting experience, as travel regulations meant that some international students had to quarantine. Without any physical contact with fellow students or tutors, it became even more important to quickly learn how to navigate the VLE.
Alongside this we had recorded and online lectures, most of which were new to me. Having to watch a video by a lecturer before meeting for a live session was a bit of an odd concept at first, however I grew to really enjoy it. The credit has to go to the tutors who were always very open to feedback and would sometimes tweak their teaching methods to suit evolving circumstances. What I found nice was that there was always a sense that both students and tutors were in this together and both parties were equal stakeholders in figuring out the best way to make the most of the new normal.
In order to foster interactions between fellow students, some modules featured discussion boards and live sessions exclusively for student interaction. While these are yet to fully catch on, the early signs are very positive. In addition to lectures, I attended online sessions on career opportunities as well as professional and academic development. I assume that many of these may have been hosted physically prior to the pandemic, and I wonder if I would have attended so much of these if I had to be physically present.
One of the appeals of studying in the UK, particularly in a city such as Leeds, is the tourist attractions. Just like everything in the world, they have also been affected with numerous closures. However, there are some stellar outdoor locations that one could still visit, many of which provide a good tourist experience showcasing the rich history of Leeds. A place like Kirkstall Abbey is a good example of this.
Interestingly the city of Leeds often feels like a multicultural melting pot and I have really enjoyed basking in the city even though it’s been considerably limited because of the national restrictions. A lot of things have been virtual, and the few physical classes often felt like an exciting chance to get face-to-face with the lecturers whose voices I had become so accustomed to. For me, it almost felt like meeting the stars you see on TV. Only this time, the TV was a 14-inch laptop screen and the stars were my tutors.
Getting used to the British culture is still an ongoing process for me. One which I expect to last for a while as some nuances continue to amaze me. The winter has also been a very new experience for me and I may never get used to seeing the moon at 16:00.All through these peculiar experiences, I have found an appreciation for some of the simplest things of life and academia. From the little things such as sitting in a classroom, to having a chat with a fellow student over a cup of coffee. I also recognise some of the advantages of the virtual classroom, such as being able to re-watch lectures.