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Returning to UCL in September

Sophia Saeed, third year UCL Geography student, shares how she is feeling about returning to UCL in September for her final year.

As a Geography student entering the final year of my undergraduate degree, I have been worried about my health, the health of others around me, my future university life and future career. Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, confusion and uncertainty are the new norms, especially as it is unknown when life will resume back to normal, or what it will look like when we are through the other side of this pandemic. Despite this, UCL has clearly demonstrated its need to prioritise the safety of students and staff, and are continuously working hard to ensure high quality education for students.

UCL’s stance on university life from September has to be met with the government’s guidelines. This is with strict social distancing measures taking place and implementing measures such as compulsory face coverings with one-way walking systems. UCL has also indicated that lectures will be held online and, where possible, hold smaller group seminars throughout Term 1. I feel reassured by the fact UCL is prioritising the safety of their students by following government guidelines to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. 

Despite libraries being open, I know that I will be carrying out the majority of my work independently, without the support from my peers nearby. However, in Term 3 of this year, I was regularly engaging with other students and staff through video call whilst remotely studying. The calls were actually really easy to carry out and still informative despite being online! The Geography department had adapted well despite the circumstances and was extremely supportive throughout Term 3. 

Portico in summer

Additionally, there is uncertainty regarding the fate of societies and sports clubs on campus next year. I’m curious whether or not I will be able to join a team sport next year or attend the Welcome Fair where I had hoped to get involved in societies and events that they host. However, now that life amidst the pandemic is beginning to resume as normal, I am excited to further experience London life. There are so many restaurants I want to eat at, museums I am planning to visit and still places I want to see around London. 

In terms of communication from the Geography department, it has been really helpful to have received a detailed email informing us about what life will be like in Term 1. The department is implementing multiple support systems, including peer to peer learning, pre-recorded lectures, live seminars and academic support hours, taking into account how students learn best online whilst delivering key modules. Furthermore, the effort from multiple members of staff has been faultless. The Geography department’s prompt responses and support via various Zoom calls and emails in the planning of my dissertation for the next academic year has been extremely helpful. My supervisor, Professor Ann Varley, has been contacting me frequently which has kept me optimistic for how staff members will engage with students in the continuation of our studies in September. Also, as a student returning from a year abroad, Johanna Walters from the Geography Study Abroad team has been excellent in reassuring me through emails and video calls that the transition into my final year will be as smooth as can be.  

Further reflections on UCL’s communication and support, UCL has been really efficient at constant updating the Coronavirus FAQ section, as well as regularly sending out via email the myUCL newsletter. The newsletter has eased my worries about my future career, by informing me of workshops on UCL’s career network to help improve my skills whilst in lockdown. Also, information on UCL’s Support and Wellbeing website has been constantly updated with ways to help mental health, which has been a great support system during the pandemic.  

On the other hand, the overall uncertainty has also created difficulty for my accommodation next year. I haven’t yet signed a housing contract for the next academic year as I might not need a place to live until January. This means when the time comes and more details are confirmed, I might need to find somewhere very last minute to live rather than months in advance like I usually would. 

Despite this all, I will be doing my best (safely!) to make the most of my final year at UCL. UCL has been a great place to study my undergraduate degree and I don’t want various academic, career-related and social plans for my final year to be completely abandoned. Safety is a priority, and I appreciate that UCL is doing the best that they can for their students. I guess we will just have to wait and see…
 

Sophia Saeed, third year Geography student