Mooneerams Solicitors invited student lawyer, Olivia Mitchell, to write a blog about what it’s been like to study law during a pandemic. We welcome her honesty and hope she finds her final year of university resembles something much more normal!
When I began university as a law student in 2019, I could never have envisaged how different my experience would be come 2020. With my first year comprising of in person lectures, seminars and career events, I could not have foreseen the stark contrast my second year would bring.
In March 2020 COVID-19 struck, with the whole country urged to ‘stay at home’. We all saw our lives transform as work from home and home schooling became the new normal. At the time, the thought of returning to a virtual university experience come September was daunting to me. I wondered how online learning would operate, the level of independence it would require and whether we would ever return to first year normality.
Fast forward 4 months and online lectures, Zoom seminars and virtual networking have now become the norm for us law students. Admittedly, this was not the easiest of transitions and adjusting to this new way of learning required me to extensively exercise and develop my skill set. For example, gone are the days of timetabled and scheduled learning. Rather, lectures are released en masse, requiring us to utilise our organisational skills to the highest level, to adequately plan our time and subsequently complete the work required of us.
However, organisation alone is not enough. To succeed in online learning, us law students must exercise great self-motivation. During a time where, due to frequent lockdowns, motivation, is generally, at an all time low, law students must push past this and utilise their self-motivation to wake up at a reasonable time, complete all online lectures (which sometimes can be the length of a movie) in our university bedrooms, adequately prepare for and attend Zoom seminars, and take part in virtual networking with law firms. Without self-motivation, completing an entire semester online would not go too well…!
Learning to adapt to new environments has also been vital during this online learning experience. For example, I initially began the academic year attending face-to-face seminars. For me, this was hugely important in gaining that much needed human interaction and it gave me a sense of ‘normality.’ However, mid-term our university household was required to isolate, meaning I had to adjust to virtual seminars as well as lectures.
At first, I found adjusting to online seminars challenging as rather than walking onto campus and gaining some social interaction, I was now completely based in my bedroom which felt rather isolating. I also found the format of the seminars difficult, as it was sometimes hard to contribute and not speak over other law students. Nonetheless, with lockdown becoming permanent in November, online seminars were a form of learning that I had to learn to get the hang of.
As well as adapting to online lectures and seminars, law students also had to get to grips with online exams. I initially thought that online exams would be a walk in the park. After all, how hard can it really be when you have your notes in front of you?
Oh, how wrong I was! When you are half-way through a tort exam and your laptop, with months’ worth of work on, ‘dies’ from water damage, online exams do not seem all that great after all. Nonetheless, as with the online seminars, I persevered and overcame this difficult environment (which I hope will be reflected in my exam results!).
Although online learning has developed my skill set, it has, maybe more importantly, taught me the importance of extra-curriculars. Throughout the term I ensured that I participated in daily exercise to maintain that positive mindset needed during the current climate. For example, I joined the Law netball team, taking part in weekly training sessions and playing in matches, which I utilised as a form of escapism from the university workload.
Although I was unable to attend netball during the lockdown, I ensured I continued with other daily hobbies, whether it be going for a walk or even re-creating ‘Come Dine with me’ with my university housemates!
Regardless of the activity, engaging in interests outside of the course work context has been imperative in successfully completing an online semester.
Online learning has been a challenge which all university students have had to adjust to. It has required us to develop our skill set, adapt to different environments, and provide support to one another throughout the term. Although I have now adapted to this ‘new normal’ I still hope to return to that first-year experience for my final year of university.