By Cece Briscoe
It was time. I looked up at the clock and it was now ten minutes to nine. My brothers had gone back to university and my sister was already on her way to work, leaving no trace apart from a few stray toast crumbs that didn't quite make it into the bin. I pushed the table back just enough to have a nice background to make my Zoom call, an activity that I had not even heard of until a month ago. I had waited a whole year for this, and I was finally about to find out what university was like. Sitting down behind the table, I realised that I had given myself too much time to find the link and the password and now I had to wait for a few minutes before going in the call or I would look too keen.
In these moments before the call, I lost myself in my thoughts. This was nothing like what I had imagined university would be like when I was standing on that strange campus in the middle of London two years back. Visiting the university with my best friend and looking at all the people shuffling through London, each with their own personal story; I wanted to know them all. I wanted to talk to them all. I was excited about all the new relationships that I would form in the next three years and I smiled to myself thinking about how I would finally be able to get a clean slate and start over. However, it seems like that might not easily be the case. In what was now two minutes time, I would meet everybody on my course for the first time, a far cry from how I had thought would happen. I looked up at my screen again and saw the buffering logo. My heart jumped out of my chest in fear. It was all going to happen through the thin fibres of the computer screen.
My eyes scanned the screen as names kept appearing on it in quick succession, divided by black squares. For moments I could not see a single face. My heart quickly returned to its usual place in my chest as I realised that I probably would not meet any of my course mates today. Everybody was probably just as scared as me to turn on their cameras and microphones and so it would just be blank space. A few faces began to appear out of the darkness: apparently there were some newcomers who had decided to join the lecturers in their solitude and show strangers what they looked like. I couldn’t help but notice everybody’s background as soon as I had seen their face. How strange to see the inside of a person’s room before you have even registered their name! It felt as though I had been introduced to these people on a level of intimacy that I had not asked for or expected. Suddenly I felt self-conscious. Showing your home to somebody is very private, even when you have known them for a while. To be showing this part of myself, even if it was through a computer screen, made me feel like I had been stripped bare.
‘Right, everybody, in order to break the ice, let’s all share our names and one interesting fact about ourselves,’ the lecturer announced, breaking me out of my daydream once again. All I could focus on was how disconnected I felt from everybody else. The warmth of my overheated laptop was more comforting than the isolation of the virtual platform. It was in no way a suitable substitute for a face-to-face conversation, with real eye contact and unfiltered voices instead of ones transmitted through a screen.
So, this is how the year would be. I slowly lost focus on the screen; the people on it became small blurs in my otherwise occupied mind. I focused on the whir of the laptop again, and felt its warmth radiate through our hands.
Cece Briscoe is a first-year student at LSE. "I enjoy writing in my spare time when I'm not doing my readings and spending time with my family. I am at my happiest when I'm spending time with my favourite people."