‘No Light at the end of the Tunnel’ (Clardy, 2009).
My Year in Lockdown
Lockdown has been tough on everyone. While those of us in the social sciences may have been able to continue our work from home more easily than our STEM counterparts, we still faced big challenges. Today, I am sharing a glimpse of what it was like researching throughout lockdown and how the library services helped me throughout this difficult time.
The first few weeks of lockdown were actually quite enjoyable. It was scary times with things disappearing from the supermarkets, having to wait in long queues to get in shops only to find some of the essential food items missing, and above all, being unable to get on campus at all. But life was not so bad for a researcher like me. I was able to claw back a whopping 3 hours just by not having to commute and I could comfortably settle into work as soon as I wanted to. I was feeling less tired than before, and I was making very good progress with my research.
I also started signing up to workshops such as Word for Thesis and R programming which were both offered for free by the university. I was furiously scrolling through the OD&PL catalogue to see if any interesting workshops were available for me. The online workshops gave me a great opportunity to develop skills I never would have imagined I would be acquiring. During this first bit of lockdown, I felt immensely privileged as I continued with my work, sheltered from the chaos that was brewing outside my home.
Like most people in the UK, I expected the lockdown to be strict but brief. With the idea that lockdown will be over soon, I managed to maintain my momentum for the entire summertime. Maybe the looming transfer at the end of summer kept me motivated to work hard. For a very brief period of time, I also used the Click and Collect system introduced by the university to get books. I was able to enjoy a nice day out going to Leeds to collect my books.
But with stricter lockdown measures being introduced in autumn, and the weather turning grey and miserable, I found myself being stuck at home for the entire week. During lockdown, I lost my study room as others needed to use them more than me, and this was starting to have an effect on my ability to compartmentalise work and leisure. I was working from the dining table and trying to drown out the sound of the TV in the living room with my headphones. Books were stacked up in an effort to adjust my laptop so that I was not slouching down to work. But no matter what I did to try and make work more comfortable, it was a far cry from the peace and comfort that the Edward Boyle Library used to provide.
This was also the first time I was teaching, and I had to get grips on how to do this online in a week or two. Stuck in a house with two other people working from home meant that I usually taught from a shared bedroom, which was not ideal.
There was, however, a silver lining during these rather gloomy days. Teaching, it turned out, was something I really enjoyed doing. I had taken training such as Inclusive Teaching and Foundations in Teaching a year ago, so I felt well-prepared for the role. I made sure all the PowerPoint slides that I used were both inclusive and pedagogically sound. I took extra courses on LinkedIn Learning to try and improve my teaching which was made possible as the university started to offer courses for free. I also took to heart all of the feedback I received through surveys from students whom I taught. It was refreshing talking to undergraduate students about politics and I felt like I learned a lot from them. I was really impressed with the depth to which they thought and it was truly exciting to see them gain new skills. It gave me the motivation to work harder and gave me the will to continue with my research despite the difficulties.
Another challenge I faced was seeing how much of a toll the current situation was having on staff. We tend to talk a lot about the hardship students face, but the same is true for all staff at university. Working for the International Office, I was aware of how much effort staff were putting in to keep the university going and supporting us students during uncertainty. Staff worked tirelessly to make sure students were well looked after, and I have nothing but respect to them all for their effort throughout these difficult times.
Things only improved when the long winter ended, and lockdown started to ease. I felt different. By winter, it started to get almost impossible to do a simple thing like turning the camera on as I was feeling too depressed. Despite urging others, I did not seek help. I shrugged it off as something everyone was going through and a trivial matter. But as spring came, I found myself turning my camera back on and engaging with enthusiasm. It made me appreciate how much difficulty I was facing back in the winter.
Looking back, there were a lot of ups and downs. Some days I was doing fine or even great, while others I felt like it was a big struggle even getting through a single day. Throughout it all, I still feel like I learned a lot and gained a lot of new skills. This is thanks in no small part to the library services. They were very quick to put everything online, and worked tirelessly so that we could access books. Lastly, I want to say a big thank you to all the staff and students who worked hard to keep the university going and allowing us all to access the help and information we needed. I really owe it to them all that I have been able to get this far.
Clardy, J. 2009. ‘No Light at the end of the Tunnel’. [Online]. [Accessed 05 August 2021]. Available from: www.flickr.com