After five, gruelling years of high school, the trauma of trials and eventually the relief of finals, you can imagine that I was quite looking forward to the newness that going to university would present me with. A new city, new people, new home, new books and knowledge and streets, new trees and conversations, virtually a new everything.
I am lucky enough to call myself a Stellenbosch (Stellies as we call it) University student, currently studying a BA in International Studies. The two months that I spent attending lectures, making friends, going out dancing and just generally learning how to handle this new freedom that I had been given, were interesting to say the least, and I deeply regret being excited at the prospect of all of my tests being cancelled at the closing of the university because of our friend Covid-19. What I didn’t realise at the time, was that with the loss of those test dates, came the loss of all the new things that I mentioned earlier and the beginning of a period in which I, like the rest of the country, had even less freedom than before I moved to Stellenbosch.
Initially I think, there was a lot of disbelief and fear swimming around campus. None of us really knew what exactly was happening or was going happen and the number of students who checked their email for updates from the university, must have been a record. It didn’t take long for the university to suspend and then cancel lectures, for notices to be issued about students needing to return home as soon as possible if they could and then the dreaded closing of campus. When the library was closed, however, for me was the moment when I began to think more seriously about what was happening.
Having to leave Stellenbosch and go back home, made me feel like I was travelling back in time to how things used to be before I left. Luckily for me, the university quickly got going with online learning and my boredom for a week or two was cured. It was a big shift and interesting in the way that solutions had to be found for those who did not have access to laptops or the internet, solutions that the university once again found. Although there have been a few glitches here and there, server crashes due to an overload of users and general confusion about how certain functions on our online platform work, I think we have managed to achieve a commendable and relatively comfortable position with online learning. In saying this, however, the emotional and psychological effect that this lockdown has had on the majority of the population has been detrimental in some ways.
Being cooped up all day, every week, for the foreseeable future with only your family members and a steadily mounting pile of work is ever so slightly taxing on the nerves. Not having any of the outlets that we are used to liking going out on a Wednesday (Klein Saterdag) or having a pizza night or meeting in the Bib (the library) to study together, is something that should not be diminished. They were to us the “poetry, beauty, romance, love” that Robin Williams passionately talks about in the film Dead Poet’s Society. These things have been replaced by video calls, strange DIY projects and either an extreme fitness transition or the metamorphosis into a comfortable couch potato that takes advantage of the unlimited Wi-Fi at home. For me personally, getting on a bus and coming back to Stellenbosch even without knowing when the university will open again, is something that I needed to do in order to prevent myself from morphing into the latter. The streets are quiet and campus is slowly disappearing in a growing ocean of autumn leaves.
I, like many of my friends and other students, despite enjoying being able to work at our own pace and from the comfort of our homes, are all looking forward to the return to a state of some normalcy. The fact that I miss my 8am classes is an indication of just how much I miss being on campus. Corona virus and a global health crisis is not exactly the “new” that I was looking for, but it is the reality we face and thus must find a way forward through it.
Contact Jaime: Instagram: @thegirlinthe_plants