Changing Minds: A Student’s Journey Through Drama In 2020

I have always wanted to help people, and have a passion for the Arts. During my A-levels, I was introduced to the concept of Drama Therapy; using theatre techniques to support and encourage mental health and wellbeing. Combining my two passions into one career seemed to be a perfect life choice.

After completing my A-levels, I began to look at Universities which could offer me a Joint Honours in both Psychology and Theatre. Although there were many options for Joint Honours up and down the country, no one could offer me the combination of psychology and musical theatre that was my ultimate passion.

Changing Direction

I decided to focus my degree on the Psychology element, as I found that in most Universities there is the additional option of extracurricular theatre.

I chose to study away from home at a University in Hampshire which I had fallen in love with while attending their open day. In September 2018, I made the 150-mile journey to their campus, excited to begin the next phase of my life.

My first two years at Uni were smooth and rewarding. I joined the University’s Drama Society, participating in many performances and even choreographing shows using my dance background

During my first year, and despite my actively seeking out performance-based activities, I changed my goal of becoming a Drama Therapist. I realised that my ultimate aspiration was to become a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, and that my degree was a perfect stepping-stone to achieve this.

Along Came COVID-19

In March 2020, due to the global pandemic, Universities closed and all teaching continued in an online setting. Neither students nor lecturers had clear instructions as to the logistics of this change, which made completing my second year a challenge.

Email exchanges were slow and inconsistent, which left me feeling unsupported and overwhelmed. The lack of face-to-face interaction with both my tutor and my classmates led to misinterpretations of tasks and assignments.

Technical faults surrounding online lectures were stressful. Wi-Fi issues led to many frustrating disruptions.    Holding online meetings with multiple students meant that we had to adapt the way conversations were held; this removed the spontaneous discussions and debates that are important to inspire and encourage students.

How The Final Year Has Become My Final Hurdle

After returning from the summer holiday, I was hoping for greater clarity and structure.

Being more prepared for the impact COVID-19 has had on my University has made the difficult situation easier to comprehend. However, there are still many issues which I feel are having a direct effect on my degree.

Due to government guidelines, the start dates for the new term were staggered, with only certain courses having face-to-face teaching. Whilst I understood the reasoning behind this, I found that first year students were given priority over those of us returning to complete our degrees.

Within days of coming back, we were bombarded with an unrealistic amount of assignments, research tasks, and pre-lecture material, which was all scheduled to be completed within a short timeframe.

Deprived of the face-to-face interaction, this proved to be an almost impossible task which had a detrimental effect on my mental health and wellbeing, and which has left me feeling annoyed, frustrated, and as though I have been forgotten.

Due to COVID-19, the University has seen a decline in student admissions for the 2020/21 academic year. In order to achieve financial savings, the University made over 100 staff redundant, including my dissertation supervisor, who I had handpicked due to their experience in my chosen field.

I have been assigned a new supervisor by the University whose expertise does not relate to my dissertation topic. Although I have no doubt that she will be a crucial resource in terms of the research process, I have concerns about her lack of specific knowledge in my chosen topic.

New Year, New Start, Same Issues

With the start of the New Year, everyone says ‘New Year, new start’, but for 2021 I don’t feel this is a phrase I can live by. The COVID-19 issues and complications from 2020 will continue to affect my degree.

As a classroom-based course, the University has decided that I will continue to learn online, without the face-to-face interaction that I so desperately need. The thought of returning to an isolated university experience is not something I have looked forward to.

Being stuck in the same room day in and day out has meant I am losing the motivation to complete my degree. The end of May seems a long way off, so knowing that I am in the same situation as not only my housemates, but the entire student population, is giving me confidence that I am not alone.

Watching how the students from my University in particular have changed their entire way of life to adhere to government guidelines, has been an inspiration. Activities have ranged from online quizzes and pub crawl house parties (with your own housemates), to simply finding the fun when and where we can.

I have high expectations of myself, but if I complete my degree with the grade that I expect, it will be a miracle. However, simply completing the degree in this unprecedented time will be a miracle in itself.

If I can get through this, I can get through anything.

Written By: Anonymous

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