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Coronavirus and the impact it has had on me — a personal story

By Anouk Geene




“The most important factor in survival is neither intelligence nor strength but adaptability” — Charles Darwin

This quote is pinned above my desk and serves as a much-needed daily reminder to prioritize adapting to rather than resisting change. Since mid-March, a lot of things in my life have changed, both in positive and less positive ways. Dealing with some of these changes has been stressful and challenging whilst others turned out to be blessings in disguise. Throughout, reminding myself to take things one day at a time and to manage my expectations has been really helpful for dealing with the disappointment, fear and frustration that some of these changes have brought on.

I want to share a few of them with you because I think hearing about how other people have been affected by this coronavirus pandemic helps us relate to each other and to feel less alone. Let me start with some of the biggest challenges before talking about a few unexpected blessings, as they are what has helped me stay positive, motivated and grateful during these strange times.

Challenges Online exams As for most university students, my exams took place online. This was a major change to what I had been working towards from the start of the year and meant that the revision techniques I was used to and relied on had to change as well. As a law student, I was very happy with not having to learn over 200 cases by heart but to rely on my organizational skills to produce clear notes and spreadsheets instead. What I found difficult was not knowing how our grading would be affected by an open book, 24-hour exam. Although the recommended time to spend on the exam was the original 3 hours, the available extra time meant I overthought every single word and as a result, each exam took me around 14 hours to complete instead. That’s crazy!

Returning home to Switzerland When it became clear that the corona virus was more than a little flu in China, I decided to leave my university room and go back to my parent’s house in Switzerland. Fortunately, this was only a few days before the start of my Easter holidays anyway so the trip home didn’t feel too strange. However, I certainly didn’t expect not to come back at all and neither did all of my belongings…So come mid-July, two weeks before the end of my lease and with strict travel restrictions still in place, I had a problem. I knew I had to move my stuff out of the house but no idea where to move it to as I don’t have accommodation sorted for next year yet and I had no way of getting to the UK to pack up my stuff (keep reading to find out why not…). I was lucky enough to have the best housemate ever who agreed to pack my things and was able to arrange for a storage company to pick up my boxes but it was a seriously stressful hassle nonetheless. Being an international student has its perks but in situations like these, it’s also an underestimated disadvantage.

Loss of independence With returning home came a loss of independence that I think a lot of students like me have felt. On the one hand, I have loved spending quality time with my family that I adore and get on with so well. On the other, I miss my independence and living on a schedule that meets my needs only. Just saying that out loud makes me feel guilty because I am so lucky to have my dinner cooked for every day, to have my own room and to be given a lot of freedom by my parents. But, as my parents themselves concurred, it is normal and ok to feel this way. It’s not because I crave my own life back that I am an ungrateful daughter.

Year abroad in Paris cancelled My year abroad not going ahead has been the biggest challenge, emotionally speaking. It tested my ability to bounce back from disappointment and to swallow my frustration the most. I was so excited to go, to live with my friends in an apartment there and to experience life in a big city. But, after quite some days of sulking and feeling sorry for myself and being angry at the unfairness of it all, I decided that my approach to the situation was fruitless. This turn of events was completely out of my control and I realized two things: 1) Paris will always be there and waiting to go when all the cute cafés and terraces are actually open would make more sense anyway, and 2) desperately trying to change a situation you have no control over whatsoever is only exhausting and depressing. So slowly but surely, although I am still worried about where I will live next year, I became ok with the idea of switching to a normal LLB degree and instead saw some positive opportunities in it. I will now graduate a year earlier which isn’t so bad and I will be able to do so together with my best friend.

“It could be worse” This is a recurrent phrase I hear myself saying very often. And whilst it is certainly useful to put things into perspective and realize how lucky I have been not to get sick, not to suffer the loss of a loved one or not to be financially burdened by the coronavirus, I have also found it to downplay my own feelings and reactions to the changes that have happened in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for positivity and looking at the bright side of life, but it is equally important to remember to live and react to your own reality. It sucks not being able to go on my year abroad to Paris. It sucks not being able to celebrate my friend’s graduation with them in person and it sucks to have summer plans cancelled. So yes, things could be worse, but it is also ok to feel disappointment for a bit. In the end, it comes down to how you respond to those disappointments, how much and how long you let them affect you and how you decide to go about dealing with them.

The never-ending uncertainty Almost every evening, we discuss as a family when and how my sister and I will return to university in the UK, where we will live and what our university experience will look like in this new socially distanced world. Not receiving much concrete information from either the government or the university means that I have a lot of unanswered questions which in turn renders making decisions regarding housing, transportation etc very difficult. It is the uncertainty of it all that I have found most difficult to deal with. I am a person who likes planning, who needs to organize things in advance and not being able to do so has been hard. I try my best to take things one day at a time and to tell myself that whatever my upcoming year will look like, I will make it work.

Blessings Summer in Switzerland Now that Switzerland has come out of lockdown and has pretty much gone back to “normal”, I have found myself exploring areas of my country I have never been to before. I live very close to Lake Geneva so have spent more time on it by July already than I would have any other summer. I have come to appreciate what I have right on my doorstep so much more and realized that the grass isn’t always greener somewhere else. You just have to take the time to notice and actually enjoy what you have.

Facetime Like many of us, I have developed a love/hate relationship with all things Zoom, Google Meet, Facetime and the like. Yes, it’s not the same as having coffee in person and yes battling with your wifi system is annoying but I am so grateful for being able to stay in touch with my friends and family. It takes time and effort to connect with people, but I have had some amazing conversations and heart to hearts with friends over the phone. I have always left them feeling less down about everything, more positive and gratefully aware of the people who truly support me.

Yoga I started building up a serious yoga practice last summer and loved it. Then I lost my routine when going back to uni because I had less time (and because my yoga matt didn’t fit into my tiny student room…). I was able to pick it up again back home and during lockdown, which has been amazing. I was used to smashing out intense workouts at the gym but with the restrictions, this was not possible anymore, so I turned to yoga instead. I’ve realized that both my mind and body needed a break and yoga has been so good.

Resilience and adaptability Looking back on the last few months and everything that has happened, I think that if I am to learn anything from all of this, it is to be more resilient and adaptable. Life throws things at you unexpectedly and it’s up to you to change course accordingly. I’m 21 and grateful to be learning this now. I am sure many more things will come my way so a definite positive to this corona-virus episode of my life is that I will come out of it more resilient than I was before.



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