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Abbeygate Sixth Form College student Jess Lumley reflects on why she will never take college and life for granted again.

Before lockdown, the thought of waking up at the crack of dawn to catch a bus, that was usually late, to then arrive at the front desk of the college boiling hot and scrambling to find my ID card would have me pictured and framed as the teenager.

You know the one, full of eye rolls and attitude, who grunts not talks and sleeps more than they’re awake. It felt as though college was a chore, something I had to do instead of something I wanted to, and if I’m honest, just the word alone made me groan.

But now, after months of online lessons, wearing pyjamas most days of the week and the dreaded sound of Teams still ringing in my ears, I’m a new person, revived and refreshed with a whole new outlook on school – and quite frankly I’m glad.

Jess Lumley
Jess Lumley

All of a sudden, my brain feels completely awake again, as though I’ve had five cups of coffee and they’ve all kicked in at once, and I think, after being so sluggish and terribly hot with cabin fever, a return to college is exactly what I needed.

I think I have my friends to thank for my new-found appreciation of college and you may perhaps be wondering why learning is not the thing I should be thanking – seeing as it is the main reason I’m there – but it’s because I feel that school is not only the place where I learn, it is also the place to socialise. Of course, there’s still lessons I must attend, work I need to do or hand in, and that constant feeling of forgetting something. But, after being trapped inside on and off for a year, only quickly bumping into those you know on your essential trip to Tescos, there’s also a long-awaited reunion with my friends, and how glorious it feels . . .

How glorious it also feels to finally have a smidge of normality back. To finally see my friends in person, not pixels, to walk to school together instead of patiently waiting for their name to appear on a Teams call and to hear us laughing at a joke someone told without a sudden glitch or a freeze, feels like finally opening your presents on Christmas day.

But I simply cannot just credit my friends because, believe it or not, the walk to college is enjoyable now, even when it rains, or the wind is blowing at 100 miles an hour. The last five minutes of the lesson are not spent getting ready to leave but spent trying to take in as much as my brain can hold; chatting with my teachers after the lesson ends is enjoyable and my new favourite thing to do, which probably isn’t something that’s shared with my teachers, is to ask millions upon millions of questions.

Abbeygate Sixth Form College
Abbeygate Sixth Form College

I think the saying goes ‘you don’t know what you had until it’s gone’ and that’s exactly how I feel.

My friends and their jokes, my teachers and their lessons and that regained sense of normality are all to thank for my new appreciation of college.

College is now the place I want to be all the time, and I owe it one because it’s what forced me to break out of my cocoon and become the beautiful social butterfly I am now, one always fluttering its wings with anticipation and excitement of what’s to come.

I realise now I took my normal, everyday life for granted and after having it completely flipped upside down and turned inside out, that normal, everyday life of just simply seeing my friends and going to my lessons, is all I could ever want.

- Jess is studying A-levels in English Literature, Business Studies, Criminology

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