COVID-19 cut my final year at Sussex short and I’m just not ready to let go yet

I guess they’re right, all good things come to an end.

Let me just start by saying, I respect that COVID-19 is a global pandemic that is affecting thousands of people daily and people’s lives are being totally turned upside down. I get that University students, on the whole, are not amongst those that are worst affected by the virus. Most of us are lucky, young and healthy. We have to carry on with life and wait this whole thing out, just inside of our homes.

But, that doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to feel heartbroken that something we have worked so hard at for the past three years has been taken from us too soon. Despite the need for me to still complete my assessments, write an 8,000-word dissertation that I have spent my whole University career anticipating. It’s March and my time at University feels very much over already.

The past few weeks feel like a total whirlwind. It feels like months ago that Sussex emailed students announcing the suspension of all face-to-face teaching and cancelled all unseen summer exams. We all knew it would happen eventually, even if we were a little in-denial, but reality still hit hard when those announcements were actually made. I’d had my last lecture, last seminar, last late-night-panic-cram library sesh, last bus ride home from Uni and my last pint at Falmer bar and hadn’t even known it.

In the days that followed the University’s initial announcement, I just felt totally swamped in disappointment. I couldn’t help but feel sad that everything that was supposed to be getting me through the struggles of my final term were cancelled; Varisty, student awards, even the prospect of getting that celebratory diss-hand in pic or attending Sussex graduation ceremony with all my course mates and best friends, becoming increasingly unlikely.

All of a sudden, year abroad students were being flown home from the beautiful countries they had called home for the past 6 months, and even students from the UK were packing up their Uni rooms in a panic to move home indefinitely. Next thing we know, the UK is on lockdown, and it all happened within a week.

Only a month ago I was celebrating my 21st birthday in Brighton. My family gathered together from across the country to celebrate with me in the place I have called home for three years and love so much. I’m very lucky they got the chance a month ago, because it may have been their last. On the evening of my birthday, all my favourite people were sat around my Uni kitchen table playing ring of fire and playing obnoxiously loud music to annoy our non-student neighbours. Little did we know it would be the last time we’d all be together like that.

Being a ‘sensible’ third year, I turned down my fair share of opportunities to go on nights out. Anyone that knows me knows how hard I find it to say no to a Pryzm Wednesday, there’s something about everyone shoved in that tiny, sweaty disco room screaming cheesy anthems and chugging VK’s that has become a highlight of my time at University. It encapsulates everything that I think Uni is about; having fun, making friendships and making memories. I just wish we could have all been together singing and dancing like we know how, knowing it would be our final time all together.

I’ve written for The Sussex Tab since my first term at Sussex. I went to my first meeting with a little scrap piece of paper scribbled with ideas, little did I know that I’d be writing this article as Editor-in-Chief in my final year, which has been a total dream to say the least. The team that I have been a part of whilst writing for us is what makes the challenges of the role so fulfilling and rewarding. I’m obviously devastated that we never got to properly celebrate our year of successes and hard work together before lots of us left. Our final team meeting never happened, our HQ annual editors dinner was cancelled and I never got to properly say goodbye to something that I have dedicated so much time to and something that has meant the absolute world to me throughout my time at University.

Every student in their final term of University had something that was keeping them going. I had imagined that indescribable relief walking out of my final ever University exam, heading to Falmer bar with my mates for a celebratory pint (or ten) with the summer sun beaming down. I thought I still had months to complete my Brighton bucket list before leaving and so many more summer beach days/sunsets to enjoy.

So for third years, now that we’re stuck indoors, all those red-bull, vending machine fuelled late night library sessions with our mates will be done from our bedrooms, alone. That diss hand-in pic of us smiling (and wanting to cry in relief) in front of our school’s building, will instead be a click of a ‘submit’ button online.

Words don’t really do it justice, but my time at University has been more valuable than I ever could have imagined, making memories and friendships that will truly last a lifetime. To not be able to finish together as we had all imagined and to have those precious final few months taken away from us is really, nothing short of devastating.

So for one final article from me; sending love to everyone affected by this pandemic at this time. Be kind, we’ll get through this together.