Interviews

Meet the NI students making the most of lockdown learning

  • Photo: Ulster University Journalism students have been receiving tips from renowned local journalist Leona O'Neill via Zoom

    Social distancing implementations have left a lot of people feeling restricted and irritated, whether working or studying remotely. However, not all students are feeling the frustration.

    Despite COVID-19 complications, many young people across Northern Ireland are embracing learning in lockdown.

    Jakub Ziemiecki

    13 students studying for the OCN Tour Guiding qualification at Northern Regional College’s Newtownabbey campus completed their final assessment this week – which is usually a practical event.

    Instead students adapted and delivered virtual tours, which included the Giant’s Causeway and Carrickfergus Castle.

    Introduced in 2017, Travel and Tourism lecturer Karen McLeod said the course has been an important aspect of the Level 3 Extended Diploma Travel and Tourism (equivalent to three A-levels) curriculum.


    Jakub gave a virtual tour guide which was assessed by his lecturer, Karen McLeod

    Student Jakub Ziemiecki presented a virtual tour of Belfast’s Linen Hall Library and said: “It was quite surreal, giving someone a tour via Zoom when neither of us was actually in the building, but Karen had prepared us so well in advance, ensuring that we knew what to expect and how to do our best.”

    Jakub, who is originally from Poland, said that his time at the college has had a “transformational impact” on his life, adding: “I arrived in Northern Ireland in 2013 not being able to speak a word of English and, seven years later, I am a distinction-level student.”

    Jakub hopes to become a travel writer and has accepted an offer to study International Tourism Management at Liverpool John Moore’s University, commencing this September.

    If international travel is permitted this summer, he hopes to travel home to Poland to gain further work experience as a tour guide at a salt mine in his local town, near Krakow city.

    Eimear McWilliams

    Eimear McWilliams is nearly at the end of her Masters degree in Journalism at the Coleraine campus of Ulster University.

    Although there is a lot of theory within the course, there are also multiple practical elements, such as learning how to self-shoot and edit, as well as writing shorthand. 


    Eimear is using this time to work on her dissertation and write articles that she will pitch to various publications

    She said by the time lockdown kicked in nationwide, she had most of her lectures finished and doesn’t expect it to hinder her degree results: “I have found that this transition to online learning has given me a lot more time to complete my projects as we have had less contact time.

    “I am still able to have my dissertation meetings with my lecturer and I still believe they give us the same time as they would have done previously. I have a great relationship with my lecturers, and I know they give us top level support no matter the circumstances.

    “I view this transition as a similar to a study leave for me as the time to myself has allowed me to plan my days according to my own agenda and the extra time, due to no work in my hotel or travelling to uni, has meant that I feel less pressured.”

    Patrick Lynch

    Other final-year students that were due to graduate this summer have accepted that their graduation ceremonies more than likely won’t be happening but are making the most of it anyway.

    One such individual is newly classified junior doctor, Patrick Lynch. He took it upon himself to create a makeshift gown from a bedsheet and old blue t-shirt, which he took turns sharing with the four medics he lives with that were also due to graduate from Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) this summer.

    His friend also made graduation caps out of cereal boxes and the group got dressed up to take quick turns in getting their very own graduation photos in front of QUB’s famous Lanyon building.

    Patrick studied Biochemistry before his degree in Medicine and said he missed that graduation due to being in the US at the time, so has never had an actual graduation before. But it isn’t all bad.

    Patrick added: “Queen’s got Hillary Clinton to give us a video message saying how proud she was of us all, because had we had our graduation she may have been there in person to hand us our degrees as she’s Vice Chancellor now. So that was amazing!”


    Patrick and his housemates have also created their own replica mini series of Channel 4's hit show, 'Come Dine with Me' to keep busy and entertain others online

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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