The Stellenbosch University Transformation Office recently put out a call to members of the university community to write about their experiences during #LockdownSA. Most students left campus and went home before lockdown, however, some students stayed behind as they could not return home. Two students who remained in residences share their lockdown stories with us, as well as a student who stayed behind in his Stellenbosch apartment which he normally shares with flatmates. Their stories follow below:
Alone in my apartment
I have been staying alone in my flat for a month now, and the last time I had an interaction with another human was when I went shopping a week ago. I am not complaining, exactly, I chose this above being cramped up with my family, which I knew would have been a disaster of clashing personalities, as always. I also have the privilege of being able to use technology to stay in close contact with people. But I am experiencing a rise in anxiety levels, even though I am not sure that I have always been this anxious and am only now noticing this because there are fewer things to distract me.
Anyway, I know many other people are experiencing similar feelings of doubt. Firstly, to everyone who are battling with mental health issues, and those who are struggling to stay “productive": We are going through a global crisis and continuing like 'normal' is bonkers; remember, your anxieties about the future are warranted. As individuals, we are being told to continue with 'work' as if nothing has changed, and that is concerning. Should we not be using this time of crisis to change how we do things? Secondly, speaking as a university student, I find it interesting to see educators scramble to put their existing courses online, trying to keep the format as unchanged as possible.
I would rather suggest we try to use the current situation as a diagnostic. Do we really need lectures or classes in the same way we had them before? Especially in those cases where students complain that lecturers are “just reading off the slides". Should we perhaps restructure how we believe education should be? In fact, I would like to see this questioning be extended into all aspects of our society, and into 'normal' times. We are currently being shown that society is very changeable, and we need to use that realisation to push change in positive directions.
-Paul, private accommodation
Adventures of a soul stuck on campus during lockdown
Not many people can say that they lived during a time when the planet faced a worldwide pandemic. Being in the age of the internet, to say this is a unique experience would definitely be an understatement. If I may add, to be one of the few on a university campus when all this is taking place sounds like a plot for a science fiction novel.
If I were to take a step back and reflect on my experience so far, I would have to say that it has been mostly positive. Firstly, my resident head is a heaven-sent superstar. Even though we are only 11 staying in res, there is significant cultural diversity among us, and she succeeds in making all of us feel at home and as if we belong, which is an obstacle that not many people can overcome. She is truly the glue that holds us together, keeping us well fed, safe and sane. I feel a sense of pride living in this residence, which is something that I never felt before.
Secondly, I feel blessed to be surrounded by the people here. Our group activities range from hosting movie nights in our recreational hall, where we stream movies through the projector until 4 o'clock in the morning, hosting birthday parties for those celebrating their special day away from their families, to even playing volleyball in our quad to keep our inner-child alive.
I do not want to romanticise the experience, because everything is not all sunshine and roses. We are presented with conflict and disputes that leave us upset and frustrated. There are days when I wake up overwhelmed by the many uncertainties that come with this situation. Then there are days when I feel homesick and miss my family so much that my heart aches. There are also days when all of this feels just too much to bear.
With all that said, and given the many uncertainties, I am sure of two things. The first being that the bonds we forge during this time are the ones that I believe will remain long after we made it through the pandemic. We have disputes and annoy one another, but we do so with love. The second is that we should keep in mind that we are living through a pandemic; times are tough and bring with them what feels to be endless amounts of anxiety and uncertainty. It is therefore vital to prioritise our mental and physical health. So download that free yoga app, make some tea, have conversations with the bird that sits by your window. Do whatever you need to do to remain sane and healthy. Just make sure you do this with love.
Den-Mari, Heemstede residence
Life in a residence during lockdown
With Engineering test week ahead of me, I was fully prepared for my tests, having studies studying so hard – but all of a sudden everything was cancelled. Making an immediate decision about whether to go home or not was not ideal for me at the time. I made sure I read my University emails thoroughly to understand the situation and how deciding to go home could affect my academics in the long term. Besides academics, I was also anxious about traveling from the Western Cape to Mpumalanga, thinking what if I was infected with COVID-19 along the way.
My decision to stay was all about wanting to study productively. Even though my heart longed for home, I knew home is a place of comfort and studying would not be easy. Being in a residence now is safe and a good decision on my side. So far, the weeks of lockdown have been filled with many emotions, academic stress and uncertainties, but above all, they have allowed me as an individual to learn, grow and build relationships. I also had the opportunity to improve my critical thinking. One of the best things we have been engaging in during lockdown in residence is the book club hosted by our resident mother Mrs Monica du Toit. This has been amazing and made me realise that books have become my best friends during the lockdown.
My daily routines are affected by how I plan my day ahead. When I do not plan properly, I am likely to be less productive. So, to avoid procrastination, I write down the things I have to do for each day and include the specific times. I spend most of my time on my academics and helping Grade 10 students with their schoolwork, although I also made sure to enjoy recess in lockdown by watching Netflix movies and a few series. I have also been getting 8 hours of sleep lately, which is something I struggle with during the semester. Lockdown has taught me that a daily planner makes your life easy, consistency yields success and that I am my biggest motivator.
Brigette, Monica residence