2 July 2020

Luke McRoy-Jones: Student life in lockdown

As lockdown eases, final year Plymouth student Luke McRoy-Jones reflects on his experience since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When looking back on lockdown, Friday 13 March is a date that comes to mind - the day of the Eyeball at Plymouth University. After a pretty normal day in clinic, I had a great evening celebrating three years at university. 

“It is my last memory of what we now think of as ‘normal’. I had no idea that earlier that day, I had attended my last ever day at university. In the week that followed, the university closed to students, and social distancing measures were introduced.

“I stayed in Plymouth for a short while, and continued working with the Specsavers domiciliary service, who I have been working with on weekends throughout my final year. While I continued to work, our service was far from normal, with many of our patients shielding and care homes refusing external visitors. Where I would usually see over ten patients per day, I was now seeing around four, mainly visiting for non-contact deliveries or urgent repairs.

“I decided to return home when lockdown became imminent, packing up three years’ worth of my belongings and driving back to South Wales. It was a strange drive home, as I had left three years of university behind quite suddenly.

“In the weeks that followed, assessments were modified and we were grateful for the swift communications from the academic team and the Optometry Schools Council (OSC). Completing open-book examinations was a bit unusual at first, and they were certainly different from the practical examinations we had prepared for. There was something nice about doing an examination at home and being able to have a cup and tea and biscuits while answering the questions!

“In terms of life generally, lockdown was difficult at first. I am an outgoing person, so I’ve always enjoyed being with friends and doing various activities. Trying to keep to a routine has helped and every day I’ve gone out for some exercise (mainly walking my dog, Max). Living in the South Wales Valleys has its perks, as there are some lovely mountains and walking routes locally to me. Spending more time with my immediate family has been nice too, as we’re usually all so busy working! I’ve also become a master at Zoom, using it to keep in touch with friends and family, through quizzes and catch ups.

“As I look ahead, my thoughts are mainly on my pre-reg. The College’s video updates have been really helpful in keeping final year students, like myself, up-to-date, but still there is some uncertainty and I’m sure all students and pre-registration trainees will feel the same. I’ve been trying to keep on top of my knowledge, as there will be quite a big gap in clinical experience. While this hasn’t been the way I envisaged spending the final months of university education, it will certainly be an experience I won’t forget. It’s disappointing that most of our celebrations, including graduation, can’t happen for the foreseeable future, but our time will come!”

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