Vaishnavi Vora, a second-year bakery and patisserie student at University College Birmingham and one of Dawn Foods student ambassadors looks at how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted student learning and her journey through the pandemic in the UK and India this summer.
The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly brought our busy lives to a standstill. Most of us have lost track of time, while others are still adapting to the new way of doing things. The pandemic has not only affected the economy but majorly affected the education of future bakery professionals. While both students and teachers are coping with the whole shift to online learning, this doesn’t replace the hands-on bakery experience gained at University. The job skills of current students, who are the future of the country and of the bakery industry, are affected by not having enough practical training for when everything returns to normal.
Here’s my personal experience of summer 2020, coping with the pandemic, returning to my home country, quarantining, coming back to the UK and now seeing how things pan out.
On 23rd March 2020, a nationwide lockdown was declared in the UK meaning access to the campus in person was limited and it was uncertain too how long it was going to last. My part-time job in a restaurant wasn’t keeping me busy either. Meanwhile, my home country of India announced the closure of all international airports. Going back home was not an option. I felt pretty worried about what was going to happen.
UCB quickly adapted to the situation, and the classes were moved online, scheduled as per timetable. The only difference was that the classes were being attended in bed and in pyjamas! I found this took away from the whole discipline of learning. Studying a vocational course like Bakery and Patisserie requires developing practical skills on campus. All practical assignments were converted to theory assignments, which meant the dessert which we were going to make for Patisserie was now theoretically developed and presented in the form of a blueprint – not exactly the way to learn how to bake but how else could we carry on?
My plan to intern over the summer wasn’t even an option now either. Usually, an internship helps students gain experience and a perspective of the industry which I feel I lack now for a job post-graduation. The assignments kept me busy until May, when an airlift mission was announced by India to get all stranded nationals home. So, there was another phase of uncertainty, where a phone call from the embassy was awaited to take me back home. Finally, I received a phone call a day and a half before my evacuation flight. Upon arrival, I was quarantined in a hotel room for seven days with one pending assignment and movement restricted to a room. I had to undergo Covid-19 testing before going home. Luckily, I tested negative but still had to home-quarantine.
At this point, the cases in the UK were decreasing. But surprisingly, the cases in India were continually peaking, which further restricted my movement to my home. I couldn’t meet my family or friends very often, either. The situation worsened as the cases kept on rising. However, the country began unlocking due to the falling economy.
Having witnessed the pandemic in two countries; the UK going through a second wave and India still peaking its first wave, I decided to move back to the UK to resume my education and figure out my career plans. UCB has devised a combination of online and in-person classes for this semester and we are all working together to ensure that we make the best of these uncertain times for everyone.
This challenging period has made me value the time I have had at UCB, learning practical skills and developing my passion into a possible successful career. I can’t wait to enter the campus again and get back to learning to bake – wearing a mask.