By Ibraheem Iqbal

A stressful storm

Hi, I’m Ibraheem. Currently a first year university student studying Psychology at the University of Liverpool. Well, I should be in my second year, but COVID happened. Let me take you back to the beginning, March 2020. All university students were told that studies would continue at home. To some this brought joy, to others confusion and although I can’t speak on behalf of everyone, from my encounters, most were pretty stressed out. Most students I spoke to adjusted to this ‘online’ method pretty fast. I mean attending a lecture while lying in bed and eating food, while simultaneously watching Netflix… a student’s dream! Well, this wasn’t the case for me.

Being visually impaired, I use a screen reader and I had to get used to accessing online material as well as lectures, and additionally any extra support I required. In the space of a week, I needed to adjust. How would I interact with online content? How would I access note taking support? What if something wasn’t accessible? This took far too long, and unfortunately I missed too much of my education. With discussion, I made the decision to postpone my studies and continue next year. I told myself it’s only one more year, and although the first year does not count towards your final degree, I did not want to enter my second year being unprepared. I’ve worked way too hard to enter into a degree to just have a ‘lets see how this goes’ mentality. I just know if you want to achieve something great in life, you have to make sacrifices, and although suspending a term at university doesn’t sound like a big deal… it was and if I’m totally honest, it was one of the best decisions I made.

A productive time

Well, I didn’t have university, so what do I do now… So much time with nothing to do. I decided I would make the most out of this unexpected opportunity. What are the two things I am extremely passionate about? That’s easy – food and fitness. I knew this time would be very stressful for many people, and as I had the time, I would do something I loved while being interactive and hopefully positively entertaining others too. So, I set up an Instagram account and was frequently posting fitness videos, advice and (mostly) recipes. As you can probably tell, I’m a bit of a foodie. I just wanted to teach people how to cook, it’s a life skill. You wont have food prepared for you when you get home forever, so if I had learnt a skill, why not share it with others? That is exactly what I did, and I’ve met so many new people through my platform too, which is also a blessing.

Most of all, I had time, time to myself. I had time to think life through. We all go through life at such a rushed pace with so many changes and life experiences occurring, that we forget to give ourselves some ‘me’ time. I don’t mean watching Netflix, I mean sitting down and having a conversation with yourself, what is it you really want to achieve? Is what you’re doing really what you want? Understanding who you are. I think this is all extremely important for your personal development as a human and instead of focussing on the future and bringing about high stress levels, focus on the present.

Making that decision to suspend my studies, which was once a very difficult and stressful situation, with time became one of the best decisions I made. I needed it.

Some of Ibz’s delicious looking dishes from his Instagram channel

My Return to University

Wow, time really does fly and fly it did. So, the few weeks before starting university again… tension… stress… uncertainty and all those related emotions and feelings sprung about like wildfire in my mind, which of course is understandable. Unexpectedly, things started to work out for me pretty well, everything was in place in advance. I spoke with my note taker and discussed my needs and I felt somewhat reassured… I mean I had to be, ha ha!

As the weeks went by, surprisingly I found that this new method of learning was working exceptionally well for me and I was excelling greatly in comparison to how I had previously. I was finding that the issues I faced with face-to-face teaching; walking from lecture to lecture, lack of concentration and accessibility had significantly reduced, and some had completely disappeared.

Prior to COVID, I had had some difficulties at university in terms of learning – I won’t go into detail, but the work I was producing was not to the best of my ability. Online teaching has been a blessing in disguise, I can finally produce quality work at a level which I am completely satisfied with, thanks to fewer barriers and less distractions. Just me and my studies and that’s the whole point of a degree isn’t it, making the most of an opportunity.

Obviously, I understand not everyone’s experience of COVID will be a positive one. This is just my personal experience. I had lived away from home for a long time prior to university, so actually having time to ‘come back home’ and study has actually been a fairly pleasant and positive experience for me. Most importantly, I have been able to distinguish a learning medium which is suitable for me.

In summary, my experience of university during COVID was a challenging one to begin with. But one thing I’ve learnt, is that with a positive mindset and determination, which is most definitely not easy, but is why in combination with patience and a strong support around you, a poor outcome can be transformed into a very positive one.

I understand that these are troubling times for many. I am more than happy to speak with anyone who may need a chat or if you just want to see what I’m cooking… you can contact me on:

Instagram: @ibraheemskitchen