Doing Oxford from my Bedroom
Georgina Findlay shares a JCR Perspective of Trinity Term in lockdown
It’s Saturday afternoon. I open up my laptop and a Word document, selecting my words with painful fastidiousness as I attempt to articulate my thoughts. I should have just returned to the library after a hearty Hall brunch, all set to churn out a few hundred words for my essay before the evening’s bop. But instead, I sit in my childhood bedroom in south Manchester, having just come off a Zoom call with my relatives, to begin writing this blog post about my experience of doing Trinity Term from home.
Some things remain the same. My desk is cluttered with papers and bric-a-brac, in classic student fashion. Deadlines are constantly looming, and our tutors ready to tick us off for joining the (online) class late. We are still curious and eager to learn, studying hard to complete our assignments to the highest standard possible. But it all feels very different. I certainly find that it takes more effort to concentrate for an hour in online classes where I can see four or more people at a time, but it’s the face-to-face interaction, bouncing of ideas and even occasional banter that I miss with virtual teaching. And, dare I say it, I even feel slightly guilty that I’m not having to be up at some ungodly hour to get an essay done on time – it’s very strange having eight weeks of university without the hectic intensity fundamental to our idea of an Oxford term.
Of course, it’s the total absence of social activity that engenders this less busy, less stressful impression of Trinity. Without leisurely dinners in Hall, 2-hour long stints on the punts, croquet on the lawn, pints in the bar on a Thursday night, impromptu pub trips, deep chats in Wolfson, cuppas in Fulford and even long library shifts in solidarity with a friend, being a Hilda’s student online simply isn’t the same. Nevertheless, there are few places you would find a stronger sense of community and support as an undergraduate at this time than at St Hilda’s. When we should have had a post-collections bop in 0th week, we had a wonderful (and very entertaining) whole JCR pub quiz attracting 71 people, organised by the Enterntainments (Entz) Officers. When we should be playing for college sports teams, we are doing yoga and workouts livestreamed by members of the Hilda’s JCR. When I should be worrying about turnout for JCR Committee hustings each week, I’m being joined by scores of supportive and engaged JCR members on the husts Zoom every Sunday. Students are baking and sharing their creations to the JCR Facebook page. Students are embracing their imaginative humour and creating witticisms to serve the Hilda’s meme community. Students are staying in touch with their friends and organising all sorts of online activities over Zoom: pub quizzes, black-tie birthday parties, virtual brunches. While these will never live up to real-life friendship, we are doing our best to keep each other sane until we can finally reunite in person, and I’m sure this reunion will be all the sweeter for it.
Speaking of reuniting, I do believe we should try to learn from these trying times, and I hope we will appreciate the small things in life more when all of this is over. Lockdown has really put things in perspective for me, as, I’m sure, for many others. I am so grateful for my family and where I live, and I hope that students equally fortunate to come from loving homes will never resent spending time there again. I have rediscovered my appreciation for the natural world and the calm and peace that, in our fast-paced Oxford lives, is forgivably easy to neglect: as a baby I would gaze up at the trees from the park over my garden, and I now find the same comfort when looking out of my bedroom window or going for a walk in the woodland where I spent so much of my childhood. We have seen the effects of reduced pollution in the return of wildlife to waters and urban areas, and in the many visible white specks across the night sky. We are participating in a national effort to protect others and are looking out for our friends’ mental health in ways we have not had to before. I think we, the younger generation, should use these experiences to change things for the better as we enter the era 'After Corona'. No one should feel tentative about checking in with someone, giving someone a well-needed hug or showing someone that they care. We face a slow, difficult and very uncertain future, but we are a generation characterised by openness, acceptance and loving and will help each other through, come what may.
I sit here in my bedroom, looking out at the trees, thankful for what I have. At a time when so much remains unknown, all we can do is make sure we appreciate the full extent of what we have here and now. Of course, we must allow ourselves time to grieve as we can never truly value anything without feeling what it’s like to miss it. While we may mourn Trinity Term 2020, we should see this period as an opportunity to reset. We must concentrate on what we can control – keeping ourselves, our families and our friends safe and content – and always look forward to a time in the future when we are able to live a happy existence, beyond our bedrooms, once again.