Dissertation, Graduation, and Staying Indoors: Uni in Lock Down

Photo by Sophie Merivale

Beth Buchanan is a third year Film Studies and Production student in Queen’s University Belfast. Having had the tail end of her degree and uni experience massively altered by the current lock down Beth has an interesting insight into how this situation is impacting soon-to-be graduates in the creative industry. We had a chat about uni support, graduation, and what this means for her. 

Firstly, how is your lockdown situation?

It’s fine, I’m in my student house in belfast as my dad is still working in the healthcare sector, and I have asthma, so we agreed that it’s safer for me to be here with my housemate. Its been okay so far, it’s definitely stressful, but while I’m working on assignments I would be in the house a lot anyway, so I guess it’s not that different. 

As a third year student, how do you feel your university has supported you throughout the lockdown?

I genuinely think they have done their best with the circumstances given, my personal tutor has been really responsive, she’s the head of my course too- so there has been a lot of information given to us. There’s some things with assignments that are obviously not ideal, but we can’t really avoid it as its third year; Queens are trying to organise some options for extensions and deferrals to sit assignments at another time if a student feels they need to, but I personally chose to just continue on with my work to keep everything as on track as I possibly can. 

What about your dissertation? 

We got a 2 week extension on our dissertation. It was after a bit of a kick back from students when we were originally told around St Patrick’s day that there would be so extension, a lot of people had to move back home (a lot of them abroad) so the extension felt really necessary to give students time to get back into the swing of things. I didn’t have a lot of contact with my supervisor, I did my best with what I could.  Without resources like the student library it did feel a bit more difficult to manage. There was a bit of a stockpiling of sorts happening before the library closed; people frantically trying to find anything that would be useful to their dissertation. 

Do you feel like the lockdown is going to impact your overall grade?

I hope not. My dissertation was in its home stretch by the time this all started. I think the thing that was impacting me the most was that I don’t work the best in my home environment, normally I rely on the peace and quiet of the library, so that definitely had an effect on my ability to write. 

What impact has the lock down had on your practical work?

This year we had to submit our final film which is around 10 minutes long, the work for the film spans over the whole year, the first semester is pre-production and the second is production and reflection, which obviously now has been cut short. They told us to stop producing our films once everything got really serious and lockdown was on the horizon. Luckily most of my group’s documentary was filmed already. But other groups I know didn’t  have anything by then as they weren’t planning to film until easter. Obviously the university can’t hold us all to the same standard now as different groups are on different parts of their work, so they have told us to put together a reflective essay and a portfolio to be graded instead. No-one knows how it’s going to be marked- there isn’t a lot of guidance because they have never had to do this before, and I appreciate that, but it is super stressful knowing your degree is dependent on an assignment that changed last minute. We have been told throughout our degrees that our final films are our calling cards, they are what we are supposed to enter the industry with, so not having them done in line with the original plan is frustrating. Luckily the university has assured us that we will be able to use university equipment  and resources to finish our films after graduation when it is safe to do so.

What is the situation with your graduation?

We are having a virtual graduation, which initially received a bit of kickback from students. For now, the virtual ceremony is there for us to participate in online but we have  been assured that once it is possible we will get to have our robe-wearing stage-walking ceremony too, obviously this situation isn’t ideal, but I’m glad that we will eventually get to have that experience.

Interview by Sam Dineen

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