Resilience and Reassurance: A message for young people from Sarah King

When the world ground to a halt in March, many people were left in a state of confusion and shock.

This was felt by students across the country, being only a few months before their exams and the end of term, so that the current situation could impact the cultivation of years of hard work and their plans for the next step. Lockdown has forced schools and higher education institutions to cease direct teaching and go digital.

As a lecturer, teaching Law and Mediation at the University of Dundee, Sarah King has witnessed first-hand the sudden upheaval to many students lives and the individual challenges they faced due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“From my perspective as an educator, one of the biggest challenges, especially at the start of lockdown, was trying to work out what support was needed.

“Students were in all sorts of different situations and as we moved teaching online it was important not to make assumptions – this is something learned from mediation that is useful in lots of situations.”

Despite the challenges of students accessing technology, moving out of accommodation early or being unable to fly home, and of course the emotional distress of the period, Sarah has found a positive outcome from this experience – it has brought her and her students closer together.  The pandemic has united the lecturer and her students in a unique bond that is woven with encouragement, support and resilience.

Sarah adds; “One of the benefits of the crisis and lockdown has been getting to know some of the students better. As they were emailing for support, I got to know more of their story and this has made me even more proud of them than normal, when they did well in the exams or got a good mark in a dissertation. They may not have achieved the highest mark in the year, but some of the achievements are remarkable and show true determination when you consider the obstacles that students have overcome.”

“I feel my role is to help them see their achievements in this light and to move forward with more confidence in their abilities because they bring this great attitude.”

Although Sarah and her fellow educators sprang into action to help students with their online learning and progression on their education journey, she also highlights the importance of recognising the emotional impact the crisis has had on young people.

“I think we will all have experienced this crisis in our own way and it will take us all time to process it. Everyone will have had – and be having – different emotional reactions, but everyone’s reaction will be normal for them!”

She adds; “I also think much depends on your own unique personality. I am an introvert so I haven’t found staying at home difficult. I can fully appreciate, however, that others will have felt much more isolated and that the extroverts may be wilting without their usual social engagements.”

And finally, Sarah offers some reassurance and advice to young people feeling lost or uncertain about their future plans;  

“I’m stating the obvious to say that starting a new chapter of your life in the middle of a global pandemic is far from ideal and I guess there may be more apprehension than usual. This is understandable as there is far more than usual to worry about.

“One great piece of advice I was given was not to be too set on what you want to do. Instead have a rough idea of your end goal and say yes to the opportunities that take you closer to it. You might end up somewhere completely unexpected but far better than what you originally had in mind.”