A Student Of COVID: Perspectives In The Age Of Quarantine

This article will assume one thing first and foremost; that you, the reader, have not been living under a rock (or perhaps in a fallout shelter) for the better part of the last year and do indeed know all about what COVID-19 is and what it means for the majority of people worldwide.
I’m sure you are all bored of hearing about it by now, God only knows I am too. Its just not a very exciting pandemic, is it? As a student of Historical Archaeology, learning about catastrophes of the past like The Black Death offers some unique perspectives on our current situation. COVID-19 is, in many ways, more similar to the spread of Spanish Flu during the post-war 1920’s than the aforementioned Medieval outbreak of Yersinia Pestis.
For one, COVID has arrived on the very eve of the various proxy wars fought between the United States of America and [insert country] throughout the Middle East, which although not quite on par with WWI in terms of atrocity or scale, do happen to have also been the indirect predecessor for the ensuing viral outbreak.
Thankfully, partly due to modern medicine and the digital age, the devastation caused by Spanish Flu has not yet been surpassed by the Coronavirus, and let us all pray that it doesn’t.


But lets, for a moment, pretend we aren’t in the digital age, and that we don’t know what COVID is doing to the rest of the world. In that regard, how is it affecting our immediate situation as students?
Well, for me, it isn’t as big of a pain as I assumed it would be, although I know I do not speak for all. For those of us who can adapt to online-mostly teaching (for it isn’t online-only), at least most modules have managed to shove their typically in-person courses through the meat-grinder that is the York VLE, and so sitting down at your desk, cup-of-tea in hand, ready to take notes on whatever topic Mr or Mrs Professor is presenting, is not too different.
Minus, of course, the social interaction we all come to University for - a moment of silence for First Years during “Freshers Week” please. 


I think what has become most apparent as our government scrambles for new regional lockdown initiatives, and trust me guys this new one is much better than the last one I promise, is that if I had access to a time machine I would very happily warp back several months and demand that the University of York make all modules online-only completely, with no in-person workshops or activities. Sitting in a mask for an hour with all the windows open, not really allowed to have chinwags with your mates due to the 2 metre distance, is not what I’d call a worthy opponent to sitting on a Zoom call in my own flat in my pants.
Plus, it just isn’t worth the risk, I would say.
Thankfully, the university has done an admirable job in my opinion so far, although I can’t say the same for other institutions. I would like to throw particular gratitude towards Steve Ashby’s Viking-Age Scandinavia module, which was purpose-built for online learning as opposed to having been forced through the aforementioned meat-grinder from in-person to digital. As such, the lectures and seminars feel comfortably designed for at-home interaction, when compared to the other modules which often feel like they have quite a few growing pains on my PC screen.

But in the Age of Quarantine that is to be expected. One only wonders if by the next year the modules will have fully adapted to this digital realm, or if we will be returning to the real world once more, like cockroaches out of a fallout shelter, once the nuclear winter has passed.

Author information

Alex Harvey
BA Historical Archaeology | ah1919 [at] york.ac.uk