Being a University Student during the pandemic

This short film was created in response to an overwhelming feeling of uncertainty and burn out surrounding being a creative university student during those winter lockdown months. The pandemic has taught us a lot of things, but a massive realisation was just how important in-person teaching is for students and how detrimental working in isolation can be.

There are many milestones in life you work eagerly towards; the first day of high school, the last day of sixth form, the first paycheck from your part time job, day one of walking into art school – overwhelmed by the energy flowing through the building; the hordes of students – laughing, scheming and continually creatively supporting one another.

If you’re as *sad* as me, you dream about your final year of university -when all the hard work will pay off, when you’ll work late nights in the studios surrounded by friends and creative mentors. The smell of glue spray from architecture slowly flooding the rooms, the half empty pots of ink from a wild first year tutorial. Friendly conversations in hallways and lingering a little too long around illustration while you gawk at the beautiful work.

Final year was late night deadlines with pals, the studio eerily quiet – with a friendly nod from the security guard as he does his rounds and quietly judges the coffee cups pilling up on desks. It was last minute submissions and pints after to celebrate. It was sitting in the city – surrounded by the hustle and bustle – energised by everyone’s individual plight and the buzz from the streets.

It was a graduation show filled with people, excited chatter and standing while proud parents take awkward pictures of you beside your work. It was getting overly excited by your new business card and hoping you leave the night with none left. It was that feeling of satisfaction when you hand in work for a deadline and know there’s no more you can do now.


Final Year of University in 2020/2021

Sadly, this was not the final year of university any of us got to experience.

No, this year was not a culmination of hard work met with memories and lasting friendships being made. Instead – it was days, weeks and months of isolation. It was nights filled with worry over our futures and days filled with new infection rates and death tallies.

Final year was bad connection and all of us too awkward to speak on microphone; you don’t even have the pleasure of seeing friendly faces during class time. Just a screen filled with dark faceless icons and a *connection not strong enough* alert.

Final year was not uttering a word until late in the afternoon because you just hadn’t needed to speak out loud until then – after all who was there to talk to? It was a relentless habitual practice of getting up early only to sit and stare at a screen wondering what the point was.

It was the most time we’ve ever had to ourselves and yet the longer it went on for the longer the minutes lasted. Soon enough the weekly zooms died down and the group chats simmered.

Collaborative classes: Once filled with opinions, experimentation and passion were now links to YouTube tutorials and Linked-In profiles. The work felt strange, that sense of achievement now lost. It was as simple as pressing *SUBMIT* and then waiting for the button to turn green…

Routine was soon the hardest thing to accept. Stuck in place – with the world practically burning around us, how could we possibly complain? So, we continued on, awaiting the day we could return to *normality* – whenever that would be. If that would be.

Perpetual. Limbo. The only way to describe the feeling. You couldn’t really move forward but there was no turning back. As students sat in the waiting room, going through the motions of education without really reaping any rewards.

After discussing these feelings toward online education and the surrounding burnout and isolation involved, it was surprising to hear that my brother, Dillon Osborne – a freelance creative – also felt the same. Regardless of our current situation we felt it important to make this short film to document the moment and see if these feelings of perpetual limbo resonated with anyone else.


Perpetual Limbo wins coveted Ulster University Award

The short film was met with overwhelming support and feedback, with many people both students and professionals reaching out to share their own experiences and noting poignant moments from the film which resonated most with them. The work has since been included in the Belfast School of Art #EveryonesExhibit in conjunction with Bravo Media, which ran from the 14th May until the 28th May, with the short film stills popping up on billboards across Belfast and Lisburn. Look out for this in the Shafstbury Square and Titanic Quarter in Belfast and the Chapel Hill area in Lisburn.

Although my final year was quite isolated, there has been a silver lining. My film has just won the Ulster University Greer Garson Film Award! The piece was awarded the title of ‘Best piece of creative work in film by an Ulster University Student’.


Ardmore’s Uni 1:1 mentoring programme

After highlighting the difficulties faced by students this year, Ardmore have stepped in to do their bit to help. We have recently initiated a Uni 1:1 mentoring service for university students who have been affected by the pandemic. Our aim is to link these students up with our experts, who can then provide guidance through their industry knowledge and experience.