Thinking back to the start of last year, I remember the initial conversations between my housemates and I, surrounding the topic of this new ‘Coronavirus’ that was beginning to creep into media stories. At the time, I remember it being said that it would never come to the UK, and the story would go away as fast as it had come.
Fast forward a few weeks, and we found ourselves reading a news article from the BBC detailing how the first Coronavirus case had not only arrived in Wales but in our University’s city! However, even at this point, I could not have envisaged the impact that this virus would have and continues to have on the rest of my Law degree.
I consider myself lucky to have been able to have a pre-covid ‘normal’ university experience during my first year of my undergraduate studies in Law. It was mid-way through my second year of studies when my University announced it was shutting until further notice.
Suddenly, I became inundated by emails detailing the new plans of learning that were to be put in place as my legal studies shifted online. By the time of the national lockdown, most teaching content had already been delivered, which meant that second-year exams were all that remained for that academic year.
My University decided to adopt a new form of exams which entails releasing the exam paper online with a one-week submission window. This open-book, week-long exam starkly contrasted with the style we had been preparing for throughout the academic year and almost seemed too easy.
However, I quickly realised that this exam format comes with its challenges. My lecturers had made it clear that the exams were not to be written as coursework and that we should spend the same amount of time that we would have been allocated had Coronavirus not occurred. Nevertheless, initially, I found it difficult to treat my exam papers in that way and not as coursework. I found the word limits restricting because I had access to all of my notes in front of me.
However, two exam periods and feedback opportunities later, I now feel that I have found the right balance to tackle this style of exams in the future.
I found the transition to online learning in September easier than I had initially thought I would and soon adjusted to the new normal of watching all the lecture content released at once, ready for ‘Large-Group sessions’ of consolidation before the seminar preparations. In some respects, I feel that the content and workload have been higher this year, perhaps due to lecturers’ efforts to compensate for lack of face-to-face lectures. Nevertheless, I soon found myself getting into a routine.
This new normal of virtual learning would quickly become very overwhelming without a high level of organisation. With the lecture content, often consisting of multiple videos per topic, all being released at once, it has been essential to stay on top of my time management to ensure that I have watched the right content to prepare for my seminar questions. One benefit of being a law student is that pre-covid there was already a significant amount of self-study required, so I have been able to use this time to strengthen my pre-existing organisational and time-management skills.
Another aspect of studying Law during the pandemic where I have found it more difficult to adapt is learning to work in less than ideal environments.
Before the pandemic, I enjoyed the routine of attending lecture halls and studying in the University’s law library, both of which are luxuries I am certainly hoping to regain for my postgraduate studies when we return to normality.
During the lockdowns, I moved back into my family home, which proved challenging, especially during exam time, when I had to remain focussed and undistracted.
Due to the current climate, the entire final year of my law degree has been undertaken from my university bedroom. There have been no possibilities of face-to-face learning, which has meant that my time has primarily been spent in one room, day after day.
To continue studying to a high standard despite the environment has required a lot of self-motivation and self-discipline. On the plus side, these are vital skills that I can utilise throughout my legal career.
Due to today’s generation of technology, I have been able to continue networking despite the lockdowns. Many legal firms and companies have organised invaluable virtual workshops and talks that have allowed me to continue to connect with the legal sector even from my bedroom!
With opportunities for online internships through sites like Forage and virtual work experience placements, such as the one I have undertaken with Mooneerams, I have still been able to build upon my experience in the legal sector.
Looking forward, I may not have experienced the standard Law degree that previous students will have had, and it has certainly brought its challenges. Still, overall, I think that lockdown life has forced me to adapt to new situations and develop all-round skills, which will be vital as I progress into the world of work.