14th September 2020. The first day of Fresher’s Week. This time last year, I was dusting off my favourite scrunchie, applying neon face paint and donning body glitter as I got ready for an 80s/90s themed party. This year, I was sitting on my couch in my favourite spot, cup of tea in hand, binging Netflix. Now, am I a Fresher? Absolutely not. And am I just getting old? Well…probably. But it wasn’t the fear of the dreaded two-day hangover that kept me at home in my slippers. Oh no…this was the year of COVID-19. A year of lockdowns, loungewear, face masks and Tiger Kings and of course… working from home (or studying from home in my case).

Being in the final year of my Audiology degree in the midst a global pandemic wasn’t easy and came with a unique set of challenges I’d never anticipated. I should’ve been psyching myself up to spend the next 9 months in clinic for my final year placement. Instead, I was doing online lectures, clutching a self-replenishing cup of tea that even the most skilled of surgeons would struggle to part from me, all while wearing a onesie (side note; tea and onesies are something I think we should implement for all lectures going forward…just my personal opinion). Being at home also meant no lab time, and no lab time meant I had to get creative if I wanted to keep on top of my practical skills. Shout-out to my boyfriend Dave, who spent months learning patient backstories that I’d made up  so I could practise history taking, debriefs and so…much…otoscopy! Not to mention the pretend PTA that involved him sitting at the kitchen table with my headphones on and me shouting “BEEP!…..you’re supposed to respond now!” Seriously, he played so many roles Walter Mitty would be jealous! He was a real trooper.

Besides the studying, there were other challenges.  I missed my friends, my family and socialising with other people (sorry Dave). I missed things I took for granted, like speaking to real people and not just blank screens in a Teams meeting. I even missed standing in the ridiculously long Greggs queue at lunchtime (that’s when I knew Lockdown Fever had really kicked in). I couldn’t go home to see my family and at times it seemed as though it would never end. If I’m being honest, it was tough.

Despite all of this, as I now enter my last few months of uni life before graduation, I don’t feel as though I’ve missed out at all. I’ve spoken to my family far more frequently than I normally would have and Zoom quizzes have become a staple in my life. And while my year may forever be known as the “COVID Year” I think we can take a lot of positives from it. It takes a lot of self-discipline to stick to a study routine when you’re at home all day, every day and distractions are just a lapse in concentration away. I learned to take charge of my own learning and that I was far more resilient and resourceful than I ever thought I could be. The pandemic has taught me so much about myself and I’m more excited than ever to graduate and get stuck in to working ‘in the real world’.

Being a part of the BAA Early Professionals team has only amplified that feeling and I can’t wait to help my fellow students and recent graduates in any way I can in their own Audiology journey. To anyone reading who may be finding the days long and hard to cope with because of what’s going on, just know you’re not alone and I’d love it if you wanted to reach out (there’s nothing I love more than having a chat over a cuppa!). And with that, all that’s left for me to say is thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings. Stay happy, stay healthy and most importantly, stay safe everyone!