Graduates always seem to note writing their dissertation as one of the most memorable university experiences. Stressful and repetitive, yes: but memorable all the same. Working into the night in the library, many a coffee break to pass the time and delirious walks home with friends when your brain has gone way past the point of rational thinking.
Sounds pretty dull, right? I suppose, but it is the lack of these little things that have made final year all the more challenging for the 2021 cohort. Studying has become an entirely solitary activity, with current third years spending more time on LibCal desperately seeking a study space than having a well-deserved study break in Café Nero.
Maybe we’ve had it easier – juggling a social schedule, the dreaded walk from the Business School to the Conference Auditorium and the climb up Royal Park Road before it had even hit 9am wasn’t always plain sailing. However, there is something about spending Friday nights in bed by 10pm contemplating whether or not you can face another walk and takeaway coffee that is quite unique.
Arriving at university in September 2018, sharing awkward hugs with flatmates and pouring your vodka lemonade just that little bit stronger in the hope it’d give you a new-found confidence… I don’t think any of us expected to be approaching graduation with a collection of facemasks and a TikTok addiction. In fact, quite the opposite – late nights in Edward Boyle and an end-of-term trip to Beaverworks sounded a bit more accurate.
So, it has been tough: packing our bags in March 2020, we said goodbye for a few weeks – we’d be back, right? Second year is the best year – everyone knows that. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case, and we completed end-of-term assessments in our childhood bedrooms without a Bobby’s disco or a Bakery 164 in sight.
It’s not all bad, though. If anything, re-adjusting to life at home last March only emphasised just how much we’ve enjoyed our time at Leeds and just how desperate we were to return for our third and final year. It’s been slow and steady, of course – but no doubt there has been something slightly comforting about going at our own pace. Birthday pre-drinks are a thing of the past as lockdown has brought a new sense of effort to household socialising, replaced with themed room-crawls and cocktail nights. The emphasis on daily walks is not only good for physical and mental health but has brought to light the natural beauty of the local area, with Ilkley Moor, Chevin Forest Park and Meanwood Valley Trail now being visited on a regular basis.
So, as we walk down Royal Park Road now, we don’t see people rushing to lectures: instead, they are sat around firepits and barbeques, enjoying the sunshine Spring has brought. The spirit in Leeds has lifted – we’re close to the end and we don’t have long to go. Drinks on Woodhouse Moor and the scramble for club tickets will return – we never thought we’d be so desperate to see ‘anyone selling a mischief?’. Studying at the University of Leeds has had many ups and downs, but it’s also been a place of growth and happiness, one where life-long friends have been made. They’ll last forever: Covid won’t.
Header image credit: Anushka Searle