First experience of lockdown:
When the announcement came out about the nationwide lockdown back in March nobody really knew what to expect. At the time I was in week 8 of university and had a 12-hour contracted parttime job in a Eurospar. Within a week of that announcement coming out I was given a 40-hour contract and was working 9-5 most days. In that first week of working during the lockdown the first thing I noticed was the mayhem people were creating by buying stock in the dozens. Because of this the shop had to put a limit on almost every item to two per person. In the following weeks there was the introduction of capping the shop to ten people in at the one time, this meant that someone had to stand on the door and keep it to ten while also handing out sanitiser and cleaning down trolleys and baskets. I was given this job at the start and continued to do it until mid-August. At the time I really enjoyed the job as I thought I was being a great asset to the people of Dromore, but a couple of months in I began to get a bit fed up with the job. At this stage it was my primary job from 9-5, five days a week so it was getting a bit tedious, as well as this people began to somewhat stop caring about the whole procedure and walked in anyway which eventually would land me in getting a talking to by staff in the shop.
Start of changes:
Over the months of April and May there were more changes implemented within the shop, there were arrows directing people in a one-way system, the introduction of screens put up at the tills and the deli. Throughout the pandemic the one thing I noticed was the difference between the people in April and August. In April the customers were very cautious and respectful to me working on the door and the staff inside, compared to in August where people almost seemed fed up with the whole queuing up system which is understandable.
While I was still working fulltime, I still had university work to finish from my second year, so throughout the month of May my whole weeks consisted off finishing work then proceeding to work on my assignments for the majority of the night. This being my lecturers really helped with giving me extra days in order to finish the assignment to the best of my ability which in the long run was greatly appreciated.
Getting back in the swing of things:
With the sudden abrupt ending of university back in March it was five months since anything university related happened. The process of moving from working continuously five days a week to having to start thinking about university was harder than expected. In my opinion the hardest aspect of university being online is losing concentration far easier compared to actually being a lecture room. It takes a lot more motivation to get up for the early lectures when you know that you won’t be leaving your room and took the first couple of weeks to fully motivate and prep for the lecture ahead.
Struggles of Uni Online:
Another factor of learning from home was leaning how to navigate and use the online class software, which turned out to be harder than expected. As well as that, with many companies working from home my stepdad was one of them which made my already slow Wi-Fi even worse. However, once these obstacles were overcome online lectures began to go a bit smoother.
All in all, my experience of being a student and a key worker during Covid so far has been a mixed bag. It is somewhat getting back to normal now with my hours being put down closer to my part-time hours and with university being back it gets me back into a schedule. It will be interesting to see how this year plans out.
Rhys Neill is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University.