Fifth-year University of Adelaide architecture student Georgie Warren shares the comforts and struggles of lockdown life.

I started my architecture degree five years ago with the promise of a final year that would help define my career, a year to remember. This promise was kept, just not in the way that I imagined.

While most fifth-year students spend hours in the studio I spend none, meaning a culture that my cohort and I have become somewhat dependent on has vanished. The day-to-day banter of students trying to decipher endless design hurdles has been replaced with a quiet confusion. Never has it been clearer how much architects – and in my experience students – need collaboration, to jump hurdles and to inspire each other. While the scheduled learning switches to online, that invaluable unscheduled learning simply fades away. This loss is slightly eased with tools such as Zoom, forcing me to appreciate the time we live in, that learning can go on, and that I will still graduate in 2020.

As a student I still live at home, more grateful than ever for the free bedroom, food and safety net. With three younger siblings, all studying university full time, and two parents working, our home has become a busy workspace. The internet has been my best friend and my worst enemy at times, pushed to the limits in this new way of learning and working with such a full home.

I find it interesting how each member of the family has adapted to this situation in a unique way. For me I learnt a long time ago that I am more productive in certain places, often choosing to alter study spots to improve my uni productivity. This option to transfer my study space has been one of the most difficult elements of this experience. While my normal way of working is slightly out of reach, the large window filled with a gum tree above my desk slightly eases this adjustment period. This study space is often fitted with a laptop to the side, Zoom open and uni colleagues on the other side of the screen. We often leave the Zoom meeting running while we work, offering a replacement of sorts for the studio atmosphere we are used to, with chit-chat occurring whenever needed. This has been a great support to me while working from home, assisting with reducing the feeling of isolation.

With my whole lifestyle theoretically occurring within a singular room (sleep, study and relaxation), the outside has become a haven, as has exercise. The ability to go for a run/walk at any time of the day has been a blessing, and has allowed me to actually exercise daily, something I regularly find difficult. While so many things are more difficult at this time, this newfound routine has been a great support to my mental wellbeing.

With all this flexibility also comes some difficulty in switching off and allowing myself to stop university work for the day. This is something that I have discussed with fellow university students and seems to be a common struggle. As a result we have leant on each other a lot, relying on mutual support and encouragement to switch off the computer for a night in an attempt to maintain some sort of a routine.

For me this period has been a difficult time, but I have never been closer to my family, and my friends. I have time to exercise and arrange my day as my mental wellbeing needs. I miss my typical uni lifestyle and collaboration and support with tutors face to face, but I think as a course we have adapted, and we made this semester work. I am hoping for some human interaction next semester with a new perspective on the importance of some things we generally take for granted. One thing is for sure – my final year of architecture will forever be a year to remember.

Georgie Warren is a student in her final year of studies at The University Of Adelaide. She is currently working at Russell & Yelland Architects, focusing on schools within Adelaide. Her studies often focus on a passion for places for people and the way that an understanding of how people work can allow for the design of truly influential concepts.