Harriet Lyon, 19, from North Yorkshire is in her second year of study at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, Gloucestershire.
Here she shares her latest blog with us on what life as an agricultural student is like in somewhat different to normal circumstances.
My summer holidays, despite technically being the longest one I’ve ever had because of the first lockdown, flew by ridiculously quickly.
I spent the latter part of August learning the ropes at a local farm that offered me some harvest work experience where I was fully let loose on the large machinery.
I loved my days there, going up alongside the combine and then driving back to the yard and getting the hang of weighing my load, tipping and so on. I felt involved and a part of harvest that I’d never felt before.
As somebody doing a land agency degree, the hands-on-experience of listening to the farmer talk about the weather, yields and prices really animated what I’d learnt in lectures. It makes sense for land agents to be able to talk about rent reviews and so on with that background knowledge of crops and working the land.
I was very lucky that the farmer, being a father of two daughters, was keen to see me learn and show that girls can do just as good a job - interestingly, my then 16-year-old brother, with no real previous driving experience seemed to pick up offers of harvest work much easier.
As harvest came to an end, it was time to pick up my house keys - a huge leap into adulthood compared to first year which served as a that halfway house in many ways from having breakfast and tea to having cleaners popping in and just checking up on you.
This year myself and my three friends, all from Yorkshire, are very much in the deep end and have to crack on and learn about our rent, cooking and things like sorting out our energy supplier which is all an experience.
I had a new enthusiasm for lectures as I feel they’re now more specialised, rather than such a broad range of topics we learnt previously.
Covid-19 brought a change from the word go with our lectures, as we had our seminars over Monday and Tuesday and then it was online learning only for the remainder of the week. It was odd going onto campus with our masks and being so separate from our friends and just lacking the banter that you normally get in lectures.
It also brought a change to my home routine as I’d previously got into the habit of coming home every three weeks to see family, friends and my boyfriend but this time I was down at university for the foreseeable because of the pandemic.
Being away from home and then not having such a busy social life was definitely hard. I was extra careful about going out as my immune system wasn’t very good after having an operation early September and glandular fever when I was younger.
It was a real catch-22 that even if you weren’t going out, I found there was a stigma back home around being at university during the pandemic and that you could have it.
I found myself busy with online work pretty much immediately - there is definitely more work in the second year - so missed out on a fair few nights out, which for the first time I wasn’t too fussed about because it’s just not the same.
I came home middle of October to collect my boyfriend’s sheepdog pup for his birthday. Although my mum made me do a drive through Covid-19 test on the way up and wouldn’t let me out of my room until my results were back – luckily, it was negative.
It was lovely to be back home and spend time on my boyfriend’s tractor during potato lifting and to be with his pup, Floss.
My time home was also extended due to people on my course self-isolating, so instead I have been doing my online work from home and to keep myself occupied I picked up a little horse racing job.
I’ve always wanted to ride a racehorse and being small there has always been a few jokes that I’d be perfect for it. It was refreshing to get up early muck out and ride, and then be back home to do my online work – I seem to focus better this way.
This has definitely been an interesting term and I’m glad the boot was on the other foot; as had I done a gap year I think it would have been much harder to settle into university life as a first year, with no real socials going on.
It’s been a year of ups and downs – Covid-19 has stopped a planned trip with friends to Spain in November but then has allowed me to try new things and learn how to keep myself motivated, happy and healthy.
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