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Life Under Lockdown: A Christ Church Diary

Written by Megan Chester, Finalist in English, posted on Friday, May 29, 2020

This week's blog captures one finalist's thoughts about taking exams in very unexpected conditions.

photograph of Megan ChesterThat was not the goodbye I expected. I began packing up my room with a hope, naively strong, that I would return to it. This soon crumbled and before I knew it I was back up in the North West and would be for the foreseeable future. Though I can now firmly say that I am the only person ever to sit finals in my street, this Trinity Term has been rather difficult.

After much uncertainty regarding how, when and whether exams would happen, English students were informed of the new arrangements - fewer papers, online and open-book. As exams changed, so did revision. Lockdown may provide the time to revise, but not necessarily the conditions. My street is frustratingly talkative and has an obsession with power tools! I missed the luxury of being able to library-hop when my concentration dwindled or neck stiffened. I missed the peace, quiet and friendly faces of Christ Church Library most of all. Suddenly, work became all-consuming, as I didn’t have usual activities like rowing, training and meeting friends to help me take breaks. Even socialising was centred around a screen in the same corner of my bedroom. Teams tutorials with my tutors did help vary otherwise isolated revision. My brother, whose bedroom is next to mine, might have been woken some mornings by animated discussions about medieval drama. I do hope he didn’t mind. Overall, however, accumulative stress - of both examinations and the pandemic’s implications and unknowns - took its toll. I worked myself to the ground and struggled to think clearly.

Though the unprecedented here-and-now has largely relegated tradition, I still donned my sub fusc, in an attempt to make exams feel like exams. My wonderful family provided a trashing of water balloons, to celebrate and wash away tears. I somehow still acquired carnations in abundance: real, pressed, felt, virtual, plastic and paper. My postwoman must think me very unusual, but surely a finalist can never have too many carnations. Such support from near and far offered perspective, and reminded me that life does extend beyond exams, and beyond the four walls of my house. Recently, this has hard been to remember.

Lockdown has shown me many things. Firstly, that there’s perpetually a hedge to trim, a lawn to mow, something to power-wash, and a loud conversation to be had within 100m of my bedroom window. But being a finalist during a global pandemic has also prompted me to reflect on how, over the past three years, the House became my home. I will always treasure the blessing, joy and even intensity of living there, and the wonderful people who made it so. The pandemic may have parted me from Oxford’s spires prematurely, but it cannot stop me dreaming of a day when my fellow finalists and I may return to say a different kind of goodbye.