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“A blessing in disguise”: A Student Parent's COVID experience

By Rory Buccheri

I’m on the phone with Mairi as she brews a cup of tea for our interview. In the background, I can hear the kettle, and a laugh I recognise well: D., her hyperactive 2-year-old, whom I haven’t seen since last February. Mairi is in her 3rd year. Before moving to Aberdeen, she’s traveled across Scotland. Aberdeen, she confesses, remains her favourite place.

(Q) This is nice, isn’t it? You can make a cup of tea in between study breaks… Much nicer than the Parent Room.

(A) I know, right? I wish we had that in the Union Brew: a tea-refill station! Though, I miss campus. I used to complain so much about it back in February, Rory can tell you that, but now I miss it terribly.

(Q) How has your routine changed from studying on campus to moving online? How is it with D. and taking care of him?

(A) I was chatting on the phone with my best friend just a couple of days ago. I remember telling her, as a joke, that moving online due to COVID-19 regulations was to an extent a blessing in disguise. I realise now that I really meant it. I miss in-person classes, I miss being around my classmates, but at the same time I make time for my studies so much better now.

I know that I won’t have to prepare everything in a rush, then drop off D. while I’m on campus almost all day, then rush to my first lecture…

Sometimes I’d sit in my tutorials and zoom out for a moment, thinking: is D. okay? Is he having a nice time? Is he sleeping? Will he be hungry when I pick him up? Now I’m just a room away from him waking up or needing me. It makes me feel so much safer.

I’ll be honest with you, I’m feeling positive about the online-only. There’s a lot I’m dreading as well, but I’m hopeful. I can just pick a time in which D. is sleeping and follow my lectures then. I have this feeling I can create time. Mad, I know!

(Q) I see what you mean about it being a blessing in disguise of sorts. I am really happy to see you and D. are doing great adapting to this. Which, do you think, are the downsides to this new normal?

(A) The worst, and I know I’m not the only one here, is that I feel alienated from a lot of my friends. The way the new normal looks now, with regulations on how many people is it possible to meet outside of your household has given me much to think about. In terms of social contact, I am sad D. and I are stuck with each other’s company only. It’s very frustrating for the both of us to be limited to our small flat, not just because of staying indoors, but because it’s also super important for him to see new faces and have quality time with people.

(Q) I agree with you. I can’t begin to imagine how it feels in your situation, with D. being always so curious and outgoing with everyone, but I see what you mean about alienation. Hopefully we can count on the second semester. What are your plans then?

(A) I’m going to see what my choices are in terms of daycare and juggling, once again, the time I have with D. and time for my studies. I want to make sure everything is at its safest before I make a decision, but I’m looking forward to that. As much as I want to make the most of the current situation, I also want to go back to normal. I will definitely go fully back to campus when and if the possibility arises.

(Q) I’m sure I’ll see you again, sipping lukewarm tea in the Parent Room…Not as good as a freshly brewed cup, but still. Speaking of the Parent Room again, what are your favourite parent-friendly (or simply quiet) spots on campus?

(A) The Parent Room, of course, as it is a breastfeeding-friendly place. Plus, it’s always very quiet, which is key. Another good place is the Breakout Room on 7th floor (Sir Duncan Rice Library). Plenty of space, not as many chargers, but practical if you need a quick study fix and you’re handling a pram. Staff will also be super nice and helpful. Another favourite of mine is Foodstory. I can’t stand the canteen in the Union Brew, there’s way too many people on a good day. I prefer some quieter spots, like Foodstory or the MacRobert Café. The food is not as good but it’s good on the go.

(Q) A lot of good recommendations in there! I think, at this point, we all need quiet and reassuring spaces to recharge. Thank you so much, Mairi, for sharing with us your point of view and how you’re navigating this.

(A) Thanks to all of you at the Gaudie! It’s been an honour. I’ll pay a visit, maybe drop some homemade cookies, when all of this is over. To all the new and returning students, I believe in you. We can all make it through this one.

Image courtesy of ISM


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