The seven stages of pain every Cambridge student experiences in their supervisions

You’ve heard of the 5 stages of grief, now get ready for the 7 stages of a zoom supo…

Longing for the days of non-distanced in-person supervisions when the only biohazard involved was the aged sandwich in your supervisor’s desk? Nostalgic even for the days of Michaelmas 2020 supervisions, where you couldn’t quite shake the suspicion your supervisor was dreaming of lunging across the 2m distance and squirting you with the disinfectant bottle?

You’re not alone– even if some of your supervisions last term were online, having all of them move to Zoom can be disorienting (and if all your supervisions last term were in-person, please don’t speak to me).

Using a sophisticated interpretive psychology paradigm, the Tab has compiled a scientific guide to the experience of a Zoom supervision. You’ve heard of the 5 stages of grief– now get ready for the (not new or improved) 7 stages of a zoom supervision:

Stage one: Denial

Working from your childhood bedroom, your degree feels like a distant memory, a lurky figure in a half-remembered dream. Somewhere in the distance, as if through a veil, you hear the distant sounds of supervisors yodeling about ‘submissions’ and ‘due dates’. If you strain your ears carefully, you can almost make out the words.

As a result, you forgot about your supervision entirely. By a stroke of luck, your saintly supo buddy texted you about it ten minutes before, interrupting your peaceful stroll through Instagram. Heaving a sigh, you unravel your limbs from fetal position and shrug off the nice, warm blanket. Like a concussed panther, you pad over to your desk and open your laptop.

Image credits: Camfess via Facebook

Stage two: Bargaining

You have cobbled together enough brain cells to remember your supervisor’s name, but you don’t have enough fired up to speak in intelligible sentences. You plead with your supo buddy; you entreat them to volunteer to go first. You remind them that you took first feedback last time. They tell you they submitted ‘totally last-minute nonsense’. You glare at them in distrust.

The supervisor will log on any minute and you have not reached a decision. You put on a ‘cute puppy-dog’ expression that makes you look like a duck with indigestion. Your supervisor logs on as you’re in the middle of fake crying. You endure approximately 450 years of awkward eye contact, during which you’ve definitely not kept yourself on mute to avoid speaking. Active participation was so last year.

Image credits: Camfess via Facebook

Stage three: Hanger

Your supervisor is absorbed in your supo buddy’s monologue and your stomach feels like a gaping chasm. Surely no one would mind if you took a quick bite? Like a tropical explorer, you rummage through the jungle that is your desk. Weaving through pencils, last term’s supo essay and miscellaneous charging cables, you secure your target.

As your claw-like hands grasp your stash of desk almonds, you come to the heart-aching realisation that you finished them last night. As your crankiness reaches new heights, your suspicion of your supo partner soars like an eagle. The traitor who claimed they “didn’t know anything” is spitting a bunch of terms you’ve never heard of. Most unusual. You add them to the list of people you’d Feud Against™ if you were less tired.

Keeping the glucose levels high is the first step to a First (Image credits: Inika Murkumbi)

Stage four: Hypothermia

You are halfway through a sentence and you are getting the hang of this! The things falling out of your mouth are starting to come together in something resembling a ‘train of thought’. You successfully pronounced a word with more than two syllables! Boy oh boy do you sound intelligent and put-together.

It is at this point that you realise you are freezing. Smitten with an Antarctic chill halfway through a point, your line of reasoning screeches to a grinding halt. You make your apologies and get up to put on a sweater. You feel like you’re back in school, desperately sharpening your pencils just to waste time.

Stage five: Subterfuge

You have faded into a sort of stupor as your supervisor drones like an exhaust fan. You foggily forget you’re in a supervision and open Camfess on another tab. You then remember you are in a supervision but continue to scroll through Camfess. You are confident no one will notice– after all, your eyes might be flitting because you have a document of ‘notes’ open.

You giggle internally, blissfully oblivious to the fact that there is a mirror behind you, laying bare both your Camfess crimes and your tabs titled ‘how to switch degrees’, ‘immigration to New Zealand’, and ‘I want to run away and live on a farm’. No one else in the supervision can work up the will to point this out. You continue scrolling in your Fool’s Paradise.

An illustrative diagram of a supervisee’s brain whilst in supervision
(Image credits: Inika Murkumbi, Liam McClain, Sara Alef)

Stage six: Questioning

You ascend onto a new plane of spiritual pondering. Why are you here? Why are any of us here? What is the meaning of all this? Is Zoom doing unflattering things to your ears? What could you have done with your tuition money instead? What does it mean to be human? Could that one vague Crushbridge have been about you?

How would you save everyone if gunmen stormed the Porter’s lodge? Should you leave that moldy cheese another week to discover a new species of bacteria and use this as leverage to bargain with your DoS for a first? Is there a God?

So many questions, and yet still not a single answer to any of the questions your supervisor is asking.

Stage seven: Autopilot

You made it! Your cat brushes against your leg, you yelp and notice that your supervisor is winding up. You don’t know how you did it, but you made it through, and the supervision is over. Your supervisor nods and says ‘good work’. As they log off, you smile at your supervision partner, animosity forgotten. Your bed awaits…waiting for you to have the nap of a lifetime.

You sink into the covers and warmness envelops you as the world fades away. Your next deadline is two whole days away. In your dreams, you frolic in a post-vaccine world. You press against 50 strangers at a pub. You host responsible, guilt-free dinner parties and split ice-creams with your friends. You laugh as you find a mask in your pocket. Life is good.

Hiding from supervisors in a blanket is the perfect Tab-approved approach to life (Image credits: Inika Murkumbi)

Zoom supervisions may be a pain, but we’re heading back to normal (hopefully) soon! Perhaps when COVID is past you’ll find it hard to break the habit of pretending to buffer when you don’t know the answer…


Feature Image Credits: Inika Murkumbi

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