True independence: Learning To Reach Out For Help

Tapasya Bhandari graduated from Kent in 2021, studying through the pandemic. Here she looks back at her experience of studying with us, and the support she received when she reached out.

‘I was struggling with COVID-19 related anxiety at the beginning of Autumn term in 2020 and this only worsened as the pandemic and the year progressed. I remember feeling hyper-alert about everything and not leaving my house. I was too scared to be out because my mum became really sick with COVID in the summer, right after my grandfather passed away in India. I was washing fruits and veg with soap before eating them and sanitising my hands multiple times in an hour. I knew the science, that my actions were not rational, but anxiety doesn’t care about rationality.

This severely disrupted my studies and I had to request an extension on a major deadline – my placement year report. I felt so embarrassed to ask for this initially as I just didn’t know how to explain to the student support team what I was struggling with. I didn’t even know the term “anxiety” at that point! Physically, I was perfect, I wasn’t sick, I was a healthy young person so how could I explain to anyone why I couldn’t move, focus on my deadlines, or leave my house. I considered deferring my final year and even quitting University altogether but I knew I had to take action.

‘As we gain new-found independence, over our attendance, academia, we also have to be independent/ proactive in asking for help when we need it.’

The only way I can describe student support is as a ‘God send’. When I couldn’t put into words what I was struggling with, they understood, let me cry when I didn’t even know why I was crying and so on. We talked through different options, and they helped me choose the suitable one for me. I ended up deferring my report by a couple weeks and in the end received an 85 on it – the highest mark in my cohort!

Unfortunately, COVID-19 did not end in 2020 and neither did the losses we experienced. Fortunately, my initial interaction with student support had made me feel comfortable enough to reach out to them again throughout the academic year. They were friendly, supportive, helpful and went above and beyond! I also enrolled myself onto the mindfulness course especially for Economics students (an amazing initiative by Dr Adelina Gschwandtner) that helped me and I have tried to continue with in my working life.

University is different from school in multiple aspects. One of the key differences is the independence. However, as we gain this new-found independence over our attendance, academia etc. we also have to be independent/proactive in asking for help when we need it. University won’t be able to support us unless we speak up about needing help. I think this significantly differentiates people’s university experience. I would never have discovered how amazing and supportive this team was had I not reached out to them to begin with. Their support ultimately contributed to my overall University experience.’

Tapasya Bhandari received a first class honours  in Financial Economics with a Year in Industry BSc Hons at Kent, and is now working as an Analyst, London Market at the Bank of England