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21st January 2021
COVID-19 has made my Barts Medical School experience very different – and it’s possible that some changes could last even once the pandemic is over.

Written by Safiya Zaloum

Lectures Are Now Online And Often Asynchronous

This time last year, I would cram into a big lecture theatre at Barts with some 300 other students in my year. Now, it couldn’t be more different, with lectures delivered online and often asynchronously. This means lectures are prerecorded, so you can watch them in your own time.

This can be good if you are efficient with your time and you can get ahead of the suggested timetable. However, if you need motivation to start on those lectures, it can be a little trickier without the excitement of seeing all your friends in the lecture hall!

Teaching Is Different

Problem-based learning sessions, which would usually happen twice a week in a small group, have been moved online. Not meeting my group and working through a scenario together on a whiteboard was very strange at first.

During the pandemic, we have often been given a case to work on individually and have a larger group session with an expert, who guides us through the key content we need to learn.

It’s amazing to have the expertise of someone who specialises in that field, but it can be harder to ask questions due to there being 30 or more students in the same lesson. This also means there aren’t a lot of discussions either.

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Placements Have Changed Or Been Cancelled

For many students in years one or two of Medical School, placements have been cancelled or moved online. Half of my GP placement days this term were via video tutorial!

As a third-year student, placements were delayed from September to January. Even now, the hospital environment is very different from last year. Staff are incredibly busy, and most wards have patients with COVID-19 on them.

The learning opportunities may be different from before, but it is also an important reminder that Medicine won’t necessarily go back to the way it was before. Things like video consultations are likely to stick around in some form and once the pandemic calms down. It will also take a while to do all of the routine operations that have been put on hold.

Medicine is a changing landscape and although it feels uncertain, going to placement lets you get stuck in and learn in this new environment.

Clubs And Societies Are Online

Clubs and societies are undoubtedly a huge part of student life at Medical School, but sports clubs, volunteering and academic societies have all had to make different adjustments this year.

Sports is drastically different, with Zoom training or some sports even having to cancel their regular sessions. Many are making the most of social media, challenging their members with fitness programmes.

Academic societies have moved their talks, conferences and workshops online, making it more accessible to many students.

Volunteering has had to stop or change quite considerably. I used to help out with games and arts and crafts sessions for the paediatric patients in a hospital. However, we aren’t allowed to have children meet together for these sessions in the pandemic. Instead, we are making craft packs which we deliver to the hospital so they can still do fun activities.

Even though most societies have had to adapt the way they run, it is still a great way to meet people and get involved in the student community.

Studying Is Different

This time last year I would study with my friends or go to the library after lectures. In-person group study isn’t as feasible if you don’t live with people from your course; I now spend a lot of time studying by myself at home.

Group working is much more enjoyable and bouncing ideas off each other helps you all learn more, so many people are setting up Zoom study groups.

I also miss the library – there is nothing like being surrounded by silent hard work students to help you get in the zone. The library is still open, but with limited capacity. With travel restrictions intact, going to the library is not a current option to many students. It can be tricky to stay motivated whilst studying at home, but regularly checking in with friends definitely helps.

All aspects of my Medical School experience have been impacted by COVID-19. Although I look forward to the end of the pandemic, adapting to this new way of working has developed my resilience and there are some advantageous aspects. It is important to stay positive and ask for support if you need it during these challenging times.

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