Roar writer Marino Unger-Verna reflects on the blow to motivation felt by many KCL students in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s the end of year exam season at KCL. Any other year, students would be in crunch mode. Wave after wave would flock to our libraries, spending hours researching essays or studying for upcoming assessments. And after it all, we would take stock of how we did this year, note what could be done better, and go into summer break ready to tackle the next year ahead.
This year is not like any other year. Our university has told us all to go home. Events have been cancelled en masse. Our friends and colleagues find themselves scattered across the globe when they had expected to be celebrating the end of a long, successful year. A return to normalcy is no longer as easy to picture as it was a month ago. COVID-19 has brought motivation to an all-time low.
For each student, the effects of the outbreak are felt in different ways. Those in their final years lost the graduation ceremony they have worked towards since coming to King’s. Students in the middle of their degree face exams without the resources they’ve come to expect. Exchange and study abroad students have had their lives turned upside down. First years such as myself have been told their marks for the year will no longer count towards their final grades.
It’s hard to describe the effect that this announcement evoked in myself and my friends. On the one hand, it was a welcome policy. We would no longer be negatively impacted by a pandemic that is out of our control. On the other, what is the point in writing essays due just a few weeks from now? In preparing for exams, we have a few weeks after that? What was the point of the work we did the last term?
A year of work has been declared moot. Knowing that to be the correct choice does little to dull its sting.
When I speak to my KCL friends now, there’s an underlying sense of educational nihilism present which is hard to shake. The pace of work is slow. Our social media feeds reflect this. Our current world is defined by directionless. My hopes that things will soon return to the way they were are soon crushed as I see tens of people walking side-by-side on the street. They want to enjoy the fresh warmth of spring, to get out from under this new form of seasonal depression. I want to hold it against them, but at the same time, I can hardly blame them.
So how do we escape out from under the heavy blanket of this pandemic and get some work done? I say, turn to creativity. COVID-19 is poised to be one of the defining moments of our generation. Angela Merkel has called it the most significant challenge we have faced since the Second World War, with others echoing the sentiment. If we could go back and prevent this from ever happening, we would. But we can’t, and now we have to live with it. So let’s get as much out of it as we can.
War and disease have, ironically enough, always spawned art. Novels have been written about diseases past and potential for hundreds of years. Wartime novels, or even those published after that, have been able to offer us windows through which to view and learn from our collective past. Each of us has a unique life, a unique perspective. So no matter what medium you choose, no matter how practised or skilled you are, try and capture that moment. You might find that some of the gloom fades away in the face of a new perspective. Let COVID-19 be the catalyst for your motivation, rather than the thing which takes it away.