Going back to University

by Ella Gauci

A ctually, in a sense, I never really left.

The Lockdown taught me how to keep on learning.

Here's what I mean.

I believe there are two entirely different sides to the reality of going back to University after lockdown. I'd only started away from home in September 2019 following my A-Levels here in Oxford. It was all very new and exciting. Then suddenly we all had to leave and go back home again.

First, there is the practical side of returning. In my particular case, because I'm effectively now approaching my second year (what happened to my first year?), it means arranging to find and rent accommodation off-campus and all that that entails. I'll probably need to take the train and, of course, wear my face-mask, but I'm not planning to carry so many clothes with me this time. But, sure, some woolly ones for winter warmth — that's very practical.

I feel a bit sorry for freshers. Unlike myself, they'll be starting up with the certain knowledge of the pandemic still in play, whereas it took my year group by surprise. I'll be rekindling friendships briefly made, but they'll be making theirs afresh from behind their masks. It's amazing how my own first thoughts come back. The other day I was speaking to a prospective fresher who said, 'All this uncertainty isn't pleasant. Corona has made me think more about the social aspect and what it will be like'. I have to say, the social side was also uppermost in my mind before I started too.

But, this leads me nicely to make my second point.

What lockdown has revealed for me, is that the idea of going back to University is not about going back to a building nor to a different group of friends. 'Going back' is not a campus away from home that somehow will supply me with my higher education simply because I am around the place.

What's come home to me in the shock of the lockdown, is that 'place or no place' the development of my education ultimately is down to me alone. That's the hard truth of it. Lockdown has helped to drive that lesson home. If I have wasted these last few months, well, that's down to me.

What I've realised through all of this is the importance of making the best use of any time available: to gather that strange inner courage everyone needs to muster to sit down and do some homework.

Here's what I've learned.

One of my set books in my course is by Mary Shelley, 'The Last Man'.

In my personal lockdown space, this passage from the book drove home an especially rich meaning which otherwise I might have missed:

"To live, according to this sense of the word, we must not only observe and learn, we must also feel; we must not be mere spectators of action, we must act; we must not describe, but be subjects of description."

That passage came across to me that it's no good waiting for someone else's green light to signal it's now time to 'go back' to University. I think that all of us carry the capability to study, whatever our circumstances. But it does take courage and determination actually to pick up a book or pen. When I read that passage, I wanted to be one of those subjects of description as Marry Shelly writes.

I've been starting up blogs, making bread, reading articles, actively campaigning for what I believe in. I probably would have done none of those things away from home.

And I've been writing this.

Perhaps none of us needs to go anywhere else to continue to progress our learning and develop our skills. It appears from Mr Lockdown, that if we take courage to enter that quiet and sometimes lonely place to study, we can move ourselves up whatever our age, from wherever we are.

SEE ALSO by Ella Gauci:
My First Essay
Going back to University
Home Again

Ella Gauci is a resident of the village of Kidlington, Oxfordshire. Ella attended secondary school in Oxford before moving up to University in 2019.

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