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Life in the time of Corona

Thoughts of home, from home by Owl Eyes Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Daisy Sewell

I’ve just hopped out of the bath into an unexpectedly warm bathroom.  Greeted by a fresh towel, I am now about to slither into crisps sheets in a room whose walls do not feature damp, whose windows keep out the cold. I’m contentedly full after a lovely dinner, featuring foreign foods such as fresh basil and the slightly-more-expensive cherry tomatoes, with home-made apple crumble for dessert.

But I wish I were in St Andrews.

When I left our small-town on Friday 13thMarch, I waved goodbye to my flatmates, expecting to be seeing them the following Friday after a week-long break at home for Spring Break.  I must admit, there was a slight air of uncertainty driving away, as the radio crackled on about the spread of a virus which had recently seemed so far-away.  I almost smile thinking about just how blissfully ignorant we were.  It was only two days later that the University cancelled all face-to-face teaching, encouraging us all to go home.  I was surprised by how much I cried.

Yesterday was supposed to be the beginning of the home-straight of my degree. The final couple of months are a famously golden period of time in the career of a University of St Andrews student.  The temperature is creeping slowly upwards, deadlines represent a number in the countdown to inevitable soakings, and every stone and wave the Fife sunshine touches is illuminated with a pre-nostalgic glow.

I think I was ready to miss the town, but I definitely wasn’t ready to leave.

That being said, being at home is, well, all right.  Yes, towels are always laundered, the fridge is fully stocked, and central heating is not a rationed commodity.  I recognise how incredibly lucky I am to be here, with my family, safe.

What has been most significant to me throughout this period is the amount of support we as students have received from the University.  As I joined my online tutorial today, I felt deeply consoled by the faces of my peers and understanding words of my professor.  Deadlines have been pushed back, thousands of words shaved off coursework and homework tasks, including “do something that makes you happy”, allocated. Though far from the rooms of the Buchanan Building or St Katharine’s Lodge, I have never felt so closely and carefully looked after by St Andrews.

I believe if you were to ask any student or alumni what they most loved about their time at the University, they would not respond with walks on West Sands at sunset or the constant proximity to golf.  Let’s face it, none of us went on as many trips to the beach as we would have liked, and I am yet to set a foot on the Old Course.

No, I think everyone would agree that it is the people that make your time at St Andrews.  It’s the stranger with whom you exchange a sympathetic smile as you both find yourselves in the library at 1am; it’s the friend you bump into at Tesco, adding 30 minutes to your trip to the shops; it’s your flatmates who you pretend are effective study partners, but with whom you can guarantee a coffee-break precisely after arranging your books on your desk.

I had been secretly dreading the prospect of online classes, feeling apathetic about my studies due to drastic change in circumstances and environment. However, the video seminars have reminded me that, as much as the presence of central heating and my mother’s incessant chatter proves otherwise, the show is not over and that it simply must go on.  This is not only because I haven’t actuallyfinished my deadlines. It is also because, without all of those familiar faces gathering in an imaginary classroom in the technological sky, the University would temporarily cease to exist.

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My brother knocked on my bedroom door today, bringing me in a coffee for sustenance.  I droopily uttered a thank you, starting to complain again about just how difficult it is to keep going, away from the library, away from my flatmates, away from what was still supposed to be home.

Not one to let such things as a pandemic get him down, he simply said to me, “K-B-O, Winston Churchill – google it”.

If you are also in need of a small pick-me-up, I would suggest you type those three letters into a search engine. It’s not much but, whilst away from our home-from-home, it’s the one mentality we can reasonably hope to adopt.  I hope it cheers you, as it did me.