The struggle is real, but keep going

MA student Eoin Ryan offers some sage advice: 'Lectures and assignments, although important, should not define the college experience.'

“Lectures and assignments, although important, should not define the college experience.” Photograph: Getty

“Lectures and assignments, although important, should not define the college experience.” Photograph: Getty

 

These past twelve months have been different. They have presented additional challenges which have pushed us far beyond our boundaries. It has been disorientating and confusing; frustrating and challenging; exhausting and defeating.

But, amidst the grey clouds, we have also been greeted with tiny beams of light; moments of hope, gratitude, and joy. Think back to that time you were reunited with your friends or family.

How about the satisfaction of finally getting that haircut; or maybe nails were top of your agenda. Let’s not forget the heart-warming, nation-lifting “A Hug for you” generously gifted to us by Adam King, the aspiring CAPCOM.

In September 2020, I commenced a full-time postgraduate masters in international development at Maynooth University. My third attempt at a masters, he said optimistically - so, this time I was eager to get started (and stay going!).

Eoin Ryan is studying International Development at Maynooth University.
Eoin Ryan is studying International Development at Maynooth University.

Thankfully, I’m still going; but it has been a real struggle. The workload has been testing, as to be expected; however, the ever-changing Covid-19 restrictions have really upset my routine and consequently, my mental capacity to get motivated and stay focused.

Finding a designated quiet space, to align one’s thoughts, separate from the day-to-day living space, has proven to be a psychological war. In addition to the lack of social interaction, or things to look forward to, I’ve also had to account for worry-induced anxiety as an internal culprit occasionally paralysing my ability to think straight about daily tasks; subsequently, undermining my ability to complete academic assignments on-time.

As I’m sure many third-level students will agree, online learning has sucked the life out of college.

Lectures and assignments, although important, should not define the college experience. A healthy balance between learning and social interaction is vital - but currently, it is all up-in-the-air.

Nonetheless, just before Christmas, I was greeted with a moment; a joyful one. As restrictions were temporarily eased, our rather small class - shoutout to my fellow classmates - was presented with an opportunity for us to come together, on-campus, for a one day-long lecture.

Being physically present, interacting with people - socially distant, of course - was bliss. Truly, a beam of light amidst the grey clouds.

In sum, during these troubled times, we must look after ourselves, and support one another; all while actively seeking those pockets of light - to keep pushing forward, together.

Eoin’s well-being tips: change your environment (if possible, don’t spend your entire day in the one space), talk with someone (go for a walk, make a phone call, free-text HELLO to 50808), take a break from (social) media (embrace tea & chats with someone in your bubble).

* Eoin Ryan is studying International Development at Maynooth University.