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"I am so proud of myself being a student at HAU!" - Ku's Covid odyssey

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6 May 2021

Blog post written by Ku Ku

My first impression of Harper Adams University was that it is SMALL and QUIET. Universities where I studied for my first BSc and MSc were quite large. Therefore, I was very impressed by the small main campus of HAU. In addition, when I first arrived on the campus, the university was almost empty because of COVID. I remember that I felt a sudden uncertainty about my decision of going through my second BSc degree, in Veterinary Physiotherapy, on that day.

Now, half a year has passed since that impressive first day and I can confidently say that I made the right decision. I always receive a lot of care from this small but great university. And you will never say again that UK universities are quiet once you experience their party culture. Anyway, HAU cares for its students as if they were family.

All first year students in 2020 had out-of-normal academic year. There was no ceremony, no balls, and few club activities. Many of the students could not physically go to the class and occasionally had to self-isolate inside their small room for 10-14 days because of COVID. I was comparatively lucky. I am South Korean thus did not need to go through 14 days of quarantine when I came to the UK. I had to self-isolate twice last year because some students in my herd (students whose accommodations are closely connected with mine) had contact with COVID positive persons, but my isolations were only one-three days because the contacted students’ COVID tests were all negative. I saw some students who had to be isolated for two weeks. In my experience, even three days of isolation was terrible. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to be isolated for two weeks. This experience must be emotionally and physically too demanding for these young students.

My difficult time came when all students had to go back home two weeks before Christmas break. I was the only first year BSc student who stayed on the campus during that time. I did not worry about it enough and simply thought that I could live without socialization for six weeks until the time that students came back in the spring term. However, HAU was much more caring for me. One day I received a sudden call from Kai and Jo at HAU, and they introduced me to a few graduate students who stayed on campus, to move to an accommodation where there was one other student and cooking facilities, and even offered to lend me some cooking utensils from the catering department. It was such a great and detailed care that a student can receive only from a university like HAU.   

This beautiful small university is sited in the Midlands in England, in the small village of Edgmond near Newport. I found that this area is so beautiful and full of charming walking paths that I enjoy whenever I need to organize my thoughts or just want to exercise. I often go to Newport town centre either by walking or cycling. I love to walk canals, visit the Telford and Wrekin library, and swim in the Newport Swimming Pool. Newport is a small town, but it has lots of nice pubs, shops, cafes, and supermarkets.

I recently started to have work experience in a dairy farm and a horse stable. Career centre at HAU gave me enormous help to find the right work experience places. During the process, I had several meetings with Maria in career centre, talking about what work experience I wanted to have. She searched several farms which I could contact, and I finally received work experience offers from two of them, which was great. HAU career centre gave me great support. As an international student, having a phone call with potential employers is always difficult due to my lack of good English skills. Maria was concerned about it and called several companies herself to introduce me to them! She also gave me a lot of information on where I could find student job postings. Her help was enormous.

There is so much support that I have received from HAU. I always have great English tutorial support from language tutors, and Steve always runs a weekly language class which is sometimes too advanced for me but fun and interactive (Thank you, Steve!). Many tutors are amazing and enthusiastic, and they are always willing to deliver great lectures for students.

As a licenced veterinarian in South Korea, I have worked as a local government veterinary officer for more than 15 years. When I decided to come to the UK to study Veterinary Physiotherapy as a BSc student, some of my colleagues showed me a lot of concern. They told me that I could have a veterinary physiotherapy certificate in a short time rather than spend four years for the degree. In addition, my family truly worried about my health because, at that time, COVID outbreak in the UK was so serious. They believed that I would be infected with COVID right after I landed in London.

I know that many students dropped their university applications at that time because campus life in 2020 academic year would not be normal. I think some parts of their belief were right and some others not. As many students expected, study at the university in 2020 was far beyond normal. More than half of classes were conducted online, university facilities were not fully operated - for example, libraries were almost always closed - and we could not visit tutors in person. There was a lot of inconvenience all around the campus. But I found that online classes are helpful because I can watch the class whenever I want to study and as many times as I want. Well, frankly speaking, the library booking system sucked but it was just a little bit of inconvenience.  

When I made my decision to start to study in 2020, I thought about how my four years of study was going to go. In a university life, the first year is usually a year to focus on learning theories and basic knowledge. Hands-on experiences are very important, and it was one of the reasons that I chose to go through BSc degree at HAU but practical classes usually start after second years, mainly in third and fourth years. Then, why not start in 2020? COVID may continue for the whole of my life, but the life of people will return to normal at least when I become a second year student. First year classes are mainly ones that can be learned online. Those modules can be even more beneficial to learn online. I will also have advantages if number of students in the class is smaller than other academic years because there must be better student:tutor ratio. In addition, Edgmond is a small village in the UK Midlands; this place must be much safer than other areas. It might be even safer than Seoul in South Korea (Seoul is the capital of South Korea). And, the truth was as I thought (Well, I did not count on the university residence hall party culture. It was a quite shocking, charming, and interesting experience as a woman in her 40s).

When we make an important choice in our life, we should listen to our own rational voice. Of course, I value opinions of people who are concerned about me, but the person who makes the final decision is myself and it affects my life but not others. There are always tendencies of opinions that may distract me but there is no rule that the opinions of the majority are always right. Look at the history. Crowd mentality is often directed to a wrong way! In addition, we should always remember that there is light even in total darkness. I personally think that my biggest strength is looking at most circumstances in a positive way and trying to find the advantages of them rather than disadvantages. Some of my friends say that Ku is too naïve and like a child. I accept it as a compliment. It is amazing to be treated and loved like a child in my 40s!

Oh well, it was my introduction as an international first year BSc Veterinary Physiotherapy student at HAU. Veterinary Physiotherapy is a comparatively new area of study, thus has a great potential to be developed much more in coming years. I believe that HAU is going to be a leading university in this area of study, and I am so proud of myself being a student at HAU!

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