COVID-19 diaries with Ji-Yun Stephanie Yeung: Final Year in Lock Down

Next COVID-19 diaries entry is with Ji-Yun Stephanie Yeung, a final year dental student at QMUL....

Ji-Yun Stephanie Yeung, final year dental student at QMUL

We have just completed our final year exams. It's been rather surreal given the current pandemic circumstances. As students, we are so lucky to be supported by the incredible clinical and non-clinical staff who have risen to the formidable challenge of transferring all the teaching online. The final term of the academic year has always been the most pleasant; exam pressures have passed, the sunshine lifts everyone's mood and it is infinitely better to emerge from clinics into the lighter summer evenings. This has all changed now. Instead, virtual lectures and webinars in recent weeks have provided tangible engagement with dentistry, much-needed in what was supposed to be a term consolidating our clinical skills. 

Seasons change and summer has arrived all of a sudden. People have settled into new norms. I do still sense the gravitas behind email platitudes - with each message I send, I'm genuinely concerned for whatever situation the respondent might find themselves in - but anxieties have mostly been dialled down to a background hum. Efforts to stay offline and limit screen time has brought about a sense of nostalgia. From receiving daily family and friend updates, it seems that everyone is rediscovering old hobbies. 

As a GCal enthusiast, having plans is one of the joys of life. But being forced to cancel these has prompted some introspection and time to make sense of what is happening to ourselves, to our communities, to the world around is. I don't think I'm alone in experiencing the pressure to be making the most of lock down, whatever that means. Whether it's starting a podcast or finally responding to that Duolingo owl, there seems to be an expectation that we should be learning new skills or doing something productive. I can't help but think the oxymoronic pressure to maintain 'pandemic productivity' somewhat misses the point. 

Working out how I would afford rent in the upcoming months with my previous part-time job out of the picture was the most pressing issue as lock down descended on London. I am thankful that there are a number of student financial support schemes that have enabled me to continue studying for exams during this time. But even being able to step off the hamster wheel of busyness is a privilege in itself. When social distancing measures came into effect, the place at which I previously volunteered changed drastically. The homeless shelters closed, and we could no longer visit the elderly residents in our befriending scheme. News highlighting the challenges faced by vulnerable people has brought home the stark realisation that while we are in the same storm, we are not all in the same boat. Feeling as though I couldn't help more was frustrating at first, but it has been wonderfully inspiring to see great leadership and compassion by so many in the community. 

We are currently waiting for our results and further news on our transition to DFT. There's been a lot of emphasis on living moment to moment, but only so much time can pass before we must turn to look towards what is to come. While the future remains uncertain, I do hope that we can retain this spirit of collaboration and togetherness once plans resume. 

Do you want to write a COVID-19 diary? Please get in touch! Whether you're a dental student, foundation dentist, dental core trainee, associate, dental nurse, therapist I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

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