It is July, more than a month since my online examination at UCL School of Pharmacy took place. As you might have heard, unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures – a sentiment that applies to my pharmacy examinations.
At UCL, and I can only speak from my own experience, we now have 24-hour open-book exams instead of the normal written exams. One exam has been swapped for an assignment that we have much more time to prepare for.
The extra exam time accounted for the time zone differences of international students and for the increased difficulty in concentrating during the pandemic. I am tremendously thankful for this, as I struggle to concentrate in a home environment during exams or while revising.
During my exam preparation, all the materials were available online, including lectures. This means that even with time zone differences, the learning process has been made more accessible. Also, some workshops have been moved online.
We are welcomed to ask questions by emailing our teachers or during workshops. During revision and question and answer sessions, pharmacy teaching staff involved in the examinations were online to answer any questions about the new examination methods and to check in on how we were coping with quarantine.
My tutor has been constantly checking in with me throughout the period to make sure I am alright and to provide support where necessary. The process has been different but thoughtful.
However, no change comes without resistance or difficulties along the way. I have found it difficult sometimes to study during the pandemic, as some distractions were obviously unavoidable. For instance, my home is different from the university library. Being in quarantine might not be an optimal environment under exam stress for many students, especially with the high level of stress already present from the pandemic.
I am lucky to not have extra stress from my family situation. In addition, because I am an introvert I have always enjoyed being by myself.
However, the gym and the bouldering walls were also closed during lockdown, leading me to seek out activities that I could do at home. I started a daily exercise routine that I could do without equipment at home, including yoga. I used the time alone to reflect, disengage with society for a bit and find my voice again. I sought to understand more about myself, my personality and to deal with some of my problems.
I am looking for volunteering opportunities that could help me to have the pharmacy experiences I have missed. I believe that when one opportunity closes, another opens.
At the time of writing, I haven’t yet received my exams results. However, thanks to the tremendous amount of support I have received, I believe I will be happy with any results, as they will truly reflect my ability to study and answer the questions regardless of the pandemic.
However, this experience may have been easier for me than others since I prefer studying independently on my own time compared to group work or university workshops. Since each individual has different studying methods, I believe it has been a lot more difficult for some other pharmacy students. I am thankful for being in a situation that suits me.
Chau Nguyen is a third-year UCL pharmacy student writing from Vietnam