I was a Master’s student in the Department of Chemistry, finishing up my experimental research project in the lab, when the first lockdown was introduced. In a hurry I’m sure many can relate to, I packed up my things and tried to prepare to work from home the best I could. I retreated to my student flat with just my one other flat mate and unfinished thesis and tried to make the best of a bad situation- and I’m not afraid to say I struggled.
I struggled with isolation in many ways- there was the physical isolation of feeling ‘locked’ in my bedroom away from friends and family, and then the isolation I felt after the events of last summer being the only black student in my cohort.
Randomly I came across an advertisement for Black Students Talks and considering I had quite literally nothing else to do, decided to give it a try. I didn’t know what to expect, I just saw it was a group of black students that gathered to talk and support each other and thought maybe that was something I needed. Before lockdown you would never have caught me joining a conference call with people I didn’t know, but as a person who used to thrive off a bursting social calendar suddenly thrust into months of sitting isolated in their bedroom, I figured I could handle the few moments of embarrassment.
After the first session I took a nap. It honestly took it out of me talking, and I realized that that was probably the first time in many months I had spoken to new people and spoken about something interesting. I realized all my social interactions centered around 1 of 3 things: 1. My thesis, 2. Wow isn’t COVID bad, or 3. ‘Catching Up’ as if anything could have changed in the past few days of me staring at the ceiling. I tried to join as often as I could and came to really value that time with the group of just being able to talk about anything and everything, the way I did before lockdown.
Returning this September as a BST facilitator, I am more grateful than ever to have such a support group. In the first lockdown I spent all this time focusing on self-care by myself, when actually sometimes self-care involves being around and experiencing things with others, something hard to foster these days. That’s why I love and am so proud of the space BST has become, where black students can come together and meet each other through frank and open discussions about so many aspects of life.
Find out more about Black Students Talk here.