On March 13, University College London (UCL) announced it was our last day of university. All the materials were to be uploaded online, the exams were to be completed remotely and the objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) was cancelled.
As an international student from Vietnam, I was faced with the dilemma of whether to stay in the UK or return home. In the end, I booked a flight the week after. The virus was spreading fast. Only a month before, COVID-19 had been referred to as another type of flu.
Suddenly, COVID-19 was all anyone was talking about.
The university library was open for a short period, but it is now shut. Workshops and exam revision sessions were cancelled. The news came as a shock.
I am in my third year, so summer placements are essential as a preparation for the Oriel application. But all my placements in hospitals and the community have been cancelled. My friend’s summer placement at Boots was also cancelled. We’re worried not just for the unknown future of our exams, but for the upcoming Oriel applications that we don’t know how to prepare for, or when they will open.
But it isn’t all bad news. Pharmacies and hospitals are reaching out to students, asking for our help as the NHS is becoming overloaded. Since I’m already back in Vietnam, I can’t join this great opportunity to help out and gain experience, even though there is the risk of infection. However, there is a risk behind any good opportunity, isn’t there?
Another silver lining is that I have the chance to revise for examinations while at home with family, and I can enjoy the early summer before it will be the time for graduation and working life. I might hardly ever see my family then. So, although quarantine life isn’t that exciting, I need to try to enjoy it, while it lasts. The NHS is doing everything it can, as is UCL. I keep telling myself that everything will be alright, eventually.
As a student, one of my online workshops was about vaccines, in particular the one for COVID-19. Hearing that vaccines are starting to go through clinical trials and might be ready by the end of 2020 is a somewhat a nicer picture to look forward to.
So, it is COVID-cation for us students at the moment, but we are all in this together. This period has made me even more excited about my roles after graduation.
Chau Nguyen is a third year pharmacy student at University College London