Fourth-year is meant to end with lots of celebrations. A graduation ceremony, the relief at having finished your dissertation, spending lots of time with friends. It involves saying goodbye; but your saying goodbye, surrounded by lots of friends, alcohol, alcohol, and rituals that are designed for the process. Why else would you dress up in white tie to parade in a gown across a stage to collect a piece of paper? (I would be terrified that I would fall over or run off the stage at high speed. Not what happened when I left school. Promise.)
Instead of having a month or so to spend in the pub before graduating and getting a job, graduation has been cancelled, the pubs have been closed, and everyone has fled St Andrews to go home early. I am still in St Andrews. And there is literally nobody here (Apart from Sally Mapstone… possibly. I have no proof.) To make matters worse, for an extrovert like myself, I am forbidden by government decree from seeing any of my friends who still remain. (I knew I had been social distancing for too long when I started finding talk about the right to free association in my dissertation funny.)
Even worse than not seeing people who live ten seconds away, is the fact that, as I am graduating in June, there are a lot of people whom I will not see again for a very long time, if ever. While graduation made this inevitable anyway, Coronavirus has, unfortunately, rather hastened the process.
There will be no more trips to the pub. (Although luckily, I have a massive stockpile of corona beers to see me through the duration so don’t worry.) No more random, chance encounters on the three streets. They cannot happen now that we are all confined to our one, government mandated, run a day. No may dip – although I am sure there will be other opportunities in the future to run into the sea when it’s freezing. It’s an essential part of the traditional English seaside holiday in Cornwall when it rains for two weeks, and you play monopoly with your family over and over and over again. If that sounds a bit like lockdown with your family, I am sorry.
CoronaVirus has cut short my year groups time at University. So instead everything has had to move online. We have discovered zoom calls, Facebook messenger, and everyone’s favourite, tutorials over Microsoft teams when somebody inevitably freezes mid-point because their wifi in Glamorganshire is not up to scratch. Even phone calls have made a comeback. And we are baking more bread than ever. More than one of my friends has taken up knitting. But University is about more than just going to lectures and graduation. It’s about the people you meet and the experiences you have here. We may have been deprived of some of these experiences, but there is a silver lining. While we may have lost the celebrations, we have had time to work out how to stay in contact with people and been forced to work out whom we want to stay in touch with.
Saying goodbye is hard, but it’s hard because you are saying goodbye to something good. Savour it and then drink another corona. And then go and respond to your friends’ messages.
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