Discover Dig Deep’s Kilimanjaro Challenge: Summer 2021

By Ciéra Cree and Harriet Brass – In October of 2020 I was contacted by an organisation known as Dig Deep – a ‘clean water and sanitation Charity working in Kenya, established in 2007’…

By Ciéra Cree and Harriet Brass

In October of 2020 I was contacted by an organisation known as Dig Deep – a ‘clean water and sanitation Charity working in Kenya, established in 2007’. 

The email that they sent me sounded inspiring and insightful, offering students the potentially life-changing opportunity to embark on many new adventures. Myself and Harriet Brass (Fundraising Support Officer at Dig Deep), through a selection of interview style questions, discussed these opportunities in more depth as well as how students could get involved.

Who are Dig Deep? 

We are a clean water and sanitation Charity working in Kenya established in 2007. Our Mission is to unlock opportunity for Kenya’s poorest residents, county by county, by ensuring everyone has clean water, safe toilets, and good hygiene – forever. By reducing the time lost to water collection and preventable disease we remove barriers to learning and earning, allowing people to lift themselves out of poverty. We don’t do projects and walk away – we’re working with government and business to set up services and build self-sustaining systems.

What is the opportunity?

You can get involved and support the work that we do by taking on Kilimanjaro. We organize Kilimanjaro fundraising challenges to not only give you an amazing once in a lifetime experience but your fundraising provides the funds and resources to help unlock opportunity for the communities we serve in Kenya. We have been running these trips since 2011 and have taken over 1200 fundraisers to East Africa. 

Kilimanjaro is the challenge of a lifetime that will take you on an unforgettable journey to Tanzania and the Roof of Africa. If you join the team then next summer you will be heading out to Tanzania to climb the world’s highest freestanding mountain with a peak standing at just under 6000m above sea level. Our Kilimanjaro challenge encompasses a 6 day trek along the Machame route, which is regarded as one of the most beautiful on the mountain as you can see the summit on every day of your climb. Together, with your team, you will pass through 4 ecological zones ranging from rainforest to the incredible glacial zone at the top.    

Reaching the summit doesn’t have to be the end either. Each year our suppliers put together a couple of incredible value extension packages. These are excellent quality and normally include an epic 2 day Safari in Tarangire National Park, followed by 5 days relaxing with your team in the idyllic island paradise of Zanzibar.

Why is the opportunity beneficial to students?

‘This challenge is an excellent opportunity to develop transferable skills, push yourself out of your comfort zone and gain experience with an international development charity. You will be building and refining your abilities from time-management to networking, fundraising to marketing. The list is endless. Going beyond your comfort zone isn’t meant to be easy but you will reap the rewards in confidence, the relationships that you build and the places you will be able to see as a result of it. 

You will have a fundraising target of £2600 which is split 50:50 between a donation to Dig Deep and your in-country trip costs, but don’t worry! We will support you from the moment that you sign up. We offer what we feel is the most comprehensive fundraising support including a dedicated Fundraising Support Officer, virtual resources, monthly fundraising ideas, tailored fundraising plans, regular blog series and an extended network of past and present Dig Deep climbers just to name a few. 

If you want to go one step further there is also the opportunity to become one of our Team Leaders. Our Team Leaders help us to recruit and support our team of fundraisers throughout the year and have that extra level of responsibility. It’s a fabulous chance to develop your leadership skills, increase your charitable impact and encourage others to join you on this experience of a lifetime. There are also some great benefits to being a Team Leader just check out our website for more information.

Hopefully this all sounds appealing. If you would like to find out more then visit our challenge website at or simply pop the team an email at

Registrations are only open until the end of November to climb in 2021 and we will open applications for Team Leaders for 2022 around March 2021.

Images: Provided by Harriet Brass


ARU Students Working with the Deceased during COVID-19

By Pat Lok – Death is a natural process and everyone will experience it one day. However not everyone has experience working for the deceased and/or family members of the…

By Pat Lok

Disclaimer: this article talks about death and discusses how the deceased are taken care of after sadly not surviving COVID-19. If this is something that you may find triggering, please click away.

This article was approved by The Student’s Union because the work undergone by these three ARU Medical Students is incredible and their stories deserve to be told. Support services, both internal as well as external to our university, can be found at the end of the article.

Death is a natural process and everyone will experience it one day. However not everyone has experience working for the deceased and/or family members of the deceased. A group of ARU medical students have worked closely with the deceased and the dying during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that they have a dignified death. 

A volunteer at a hospital mortuary, an employee at a gravestone memorial service and a carer at a care home share their experience in working with the deceased and the families of the deceased.

Volunteering at the mortuary

An ARU medical student, who would like to stay anonymous, volunteered at a mortuary at a hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our medical school put out a call for volunteers to work in a mortuary as the short-staffed mortuary was overwhelmed with work. My role entailed checking the details of the deceased when they arrived into the mortuary and when being collected by funeral homes, sanitising the bodies and storing them appropriately.

It was very busy during the height of the pandemic as there were a lot of patients coming into the mortuary from the hospital and the community. I enjoyed being a useful pair of hands when there were very limited staff in the mortuary during a very busy time. 

From working in the mortuary, I learned the importance of checking at least 3 points of identification of the deceased and strategies to ensure that the job did not get too difficult emotionally. 

It was interesting to see the work done by the mortuary technicians and the things doctors in the hospital could do to make their job easier (for example, making sure that there are 2 hospital name bands on a patient as often these were missing as well as not wrapping several strips of tape around the deceased patients legs or head as this is unnecessary and disrespectful). I will put these things into practice whilst I am training to be a doctor. 

Having work experience in a mortuary is quite rare for a medical student and it has been a really valuable experience volunteering there. I have learned a lot.”

Working at a company that provides a gravestone memorial service

Amir is a medical student who was working at a company that provides a gravestone memorial service, predominantly for BAME groups during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I help a business that takes orders from cemeteries to design and produce gravestones, predominantly for the BAME community. We would take their information such as name, date of death, islamic day of death according to the lunar calendar, and age of death. We would then also take private requests such as if they want special symbols or the stone to be made in a particular colour or shape.

COVID has completely altered our workload; normally in a year we get roughly 1000 orders from this cemetery, but between the end of Feb to April we received 560 orders, half of the annual order in just a few months. We had to work efficiently so the work was split between my dad and I – I would deal with the administrative side of things and my dad would liaise with the cemetery stone supplier.

You take your health for granted until something happens to you. One case particularly stuck in my mind; we had a client who lost 3 family members in the past year, two during COVID times, and it’s sad to know that something unfortunate happened to the same person 3 times in such a short space of time. It really puts life into perspective. 

I have never attended a Muslim funeral though I do visit cemeteries with my dad quite often. I did so even as a child, just checking out the work that we put into making the cemetery stones and to be reassured that the person could rest in peace.

I think that this experience will help me as a medical student and later on as a doctor. I am now used to talking with people who are grieving and this experience also emphasised the importance of being empathetic when there are situations in which you can’t overly help at all.  

I would personally say that the government should take responsibility in the way that they dealt with the pandemic. A lot of these people weren’t particularly old – there were a significant number of middle-aged people – and a lot of the deaths could have been prevented. Lockdown happened during the beginning of March but it should have been started sooner.”

Working at a care home

Pat, a medical student and the author of this article, who worked at a care home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a spanner into the delivery of our medical education as our medical placements are suspended and the end of year exams are becoming online exams. As a medical student I felt quite helpless in the sense that I wasn’t qualified to help people during this time, and moving back home meant that I couldn’t help out at the hospitals where I had placements.

In the end I found a job where I work as a bank carer at a care home near my house.

It’s quite scary to see the virus taking its effects in real time; every sick elderly resident follows a similar pattern: they first stop eating, they have repeated bouts of diarrhoea and episodes of confusion which is followed by a deteriorating condition and, eventually, death. Shortly after the local outbreak, all carers had to don PPE when carrying out personal care and we had to keep maintaining social distancing whenever we could. However, it’s impossible to do that as a carer. Most residents at the care home have a certain degree of immobility which require carers to assist them to carry out activity of daily living (i.e. washing and eating). The fact that we are wearing PPE when we carry out personal care is a scary experience for the elderly, especially for people living with dementia.

Weekly GP visits to the care home are replaced by a FaceTime call, where the nurse would hold the phone showing different pressure sores, rashes and other medical complaints of residents that need attending.

Reflecting on this experience, I have deep admiration for carers across the country and I believe that they deserve better pay and working conditions. In addition, isolating elderly residents in their rooms to limit the probability of virus transmission, in my opinion, may not be the best method of intervention as prolonged loneliness is also detrimental to one’s health. The pandemic has highlighted the devastating consequences of a chronically neglected social care system; rapid changes need to be made in order to prevent history from repeating itself.

Death should not be a taboo to talk about; if you’re interested in exploring the topics around death, there are groups across the country called Death Cafe where people in the community come together to have tea and hold discussions about death.”

If you have lost someone close to you during the pandemic, NHS Support Services are available to offer some assistance. This link leads to a variety of information regarding what to do in the circumstance of a COVID death as well as a bereavement hotline.

The Wellbeing Team is also available for ARU students if you need someone to talk to during these difficult times. At current they are offering appointments via telephone or Zoom. To arrange an appointment please get in touch with them at:

The Samaritans has a free emailing service if you would like to talk to somebody as well. You can choose to remain anonymous if you so wish. Contact information for the service can be found here.

Nightline are additionally still open, offering services via email. Further information about the support that they offer can be found here.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You matter and are deeply loved. Please all take care of yourselves.

Image: Ciéra Cree (Mill Road Cemetery)

Taking a COVID-19 Home Test

By Ciéra Cree – A little while ago I was randomly selected to take part in a COVID-19 testing research study being conducted by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI, an…

By Ciéra Cree

A little while ago I was randomly selected to take part in a COVID-19 testing research study being conducted by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI, an independent research organisation, on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). I was sent a letter detailing this which I woke up to receive one morning, under the assumption that it was about something else. When I opened it and read about the chance to take part in this voluntary pilot research I decided to sign up; having the chance to be COVID tested was not something that I was going to pass down, especially before university is due to start up again.

I thought that I would share a bit about the process with you, not because it’s overly difficult, but more to show people what a test entails in case they are unaware and to hopefully reassure people that it isn’t complicated to carry out if they are offered the opportunity to do this as well.

You are firstly sent a double-sided letter providing you with details of the study. The front of the page addresses you, informing you that you have been selected and it tells you how to register (if you were to so wish) through the use of a unique eight-digit code. To sign up for the study you can either input this code into the registration website or you can contact their free-phone number. The other side of the page contains a broken down list of details about various other aspects of the test including who is carrying out the study, how your data was gathered in order for this initial contact to have been made, what doing the test will involve and whether you will receive the results of your test.

If you agree to do it, you will then receive confirmation emails and/or a confirmation text, as well as a home test kit between a period of time which you will be notified about. The test kit that I received is one which will only let me know if I have the virus currently, not if I have ever had it previously. The tests which detail both of these information’s are not yet widely available but there is hope for this in the future.

The test kit itself contains six elements: a self-assembly box, an instructions booklet, a biohazard bag with a security seal, a security seal for the main box, a sealed pack containing a swab and a plastic vial, and a sheet of labels (two serial number labels to be affixed to the biohazard bag and the vial). There is also another letter inside of the box which thanks you for your participation and shares with you further information about the test.

Before taking the test participants need to go online and book a special courier. They will arrive on the day that you choose, placing a box at your doorstep for you to put your completed test in (which is all packed away inside of the provided self-assembly box). This will then be brought to a laboratory for testing and you can expect a result to come back within a week. Participants are asked, if possible, to complete the test within a week of receiving the kit in the mail.

The test itself asks for a simple swab of the nose and throat. The swab is a long stick with a marked breaking point on it which you snap after administering the test. You then place the shortened swab inside of the vial which is then securely stored inside of the biohazard bag. It is recommended to you to do this test on the morning that your courier is due to arrive in order to have the test as fresh as possible but if this really isn’t an option you can do it the night before. Couriers can arrive any time between 8am-6pm and although they may contact you with a more specific time slot that unfortunately isn’t always the case.

Regardless of when the test is taken, you are asked to place it in a refrigerator afterwards as the bacteria needs to be kept cool at all times. I recommend packaging your sample away inside of the self-assembly box first and then putting this inside of a sandwich bag before sitting it in the refrigerator for hygiene purposes.

Once your test has been completed there is an online survey available for taking which asks questions about your health and about your experience with the test. The information booklet deems this survey as ‘very important’ so that the researchers involved in the study ‘can assess the symptoms associated with positive tests.’

And that’s what the COVID-19 home test entails! There is, of course, some points of general assistance detailed within the information booklet provided such as not to touch the soft end of the swab with your hands or anything, and there is also a video available online which walks participants through how to take the test but aside from this, I have told you the main points.

I received this test by sheer chance but if you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID and would like to request one for yourself you can do so by visiting this page of the NHS website.

Please take care everyone, and stay safe!

On Friday 28th August 2020, Ciéra received an email to say that she had tested negative.

Images: Ciéra Cree and Prasesh Shiwakoti on Unsplash

Medical Ethics: An Introduction

By Emma Smith – It is an unfortunate fact that ethical dilemmas with no clear-cut answers are faced by each and every doctor, health and social care professional throughout…

By Emma Smith

It is an unfortunate fact that ethical dilemmas with no clear-cut answers are faced by each and every doctor, health and social care professional throughout their careers. Difficult decisions are made daily, and there can be major consequences for them. 

Situational ethics, unlike many ethical theories, considers context as well as the individual’s personal ideals and judgement to determine what the “right decision” is in a given situation. Medical law, to an extent, relies on this; the law states clear rights and wrongs, but it is impossible for guidelines to cover every situation. A good understanding of different ethical theories, their roots, and how they apply to real life situations can be beneficial when these grey areas are encountered and the outcome becomes reliant upon an individual’s moral principles. Principlism, consequentialism, deontology and virtue ethics are important theories to consider; they can be exemplified using real cases and medical scenarios.

Therefore, it is these select theories that I will be introducing to you today.

Ethical theories


Scenario: A patient has debilitating pain in her neck, shoulders and arms. The surgeon gains consent to perform spinal cord decompression, but does not explain the small risk of paraplegia (lower body and leg paralysis), which she develops post-surgery [Sidaway v. Board of Governors of the Bethlem Royal Hospital, 1985].

Principlism is a practical approach to dealing with real-life ethical dilemmas, by following universal and basic ethical guidelines. The four ethical pillars of medicine is a principlist concept very familiar to medical students. Autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice can be exemplified by considering the Sidaway case. 

In this case, the surgeon believed that going through with the procedure was the best option, they did not harm the patient intentionally, and they could not have known the eventual outcome. This demonstrates beneficence, doing good, and nonmaleficence, avoiding harm. However, in order to respect the patient’s autonomy, the right to make informed and voluntary choices, consent must be gained after adequately explaining the risks of the procedure. This patient was of sound mind and could weigh up the risks and benefits herself, but she was arguably denied the opportunity. The last of the four principles, justice, concerns what is morally right from a wider, societal viewpoint. Had the patient decided that the procedure was too risky and not consented to it, the time and money used for it to have been undergone may have benefitted someone else. Although it’s not the main issue in this case, this demonstrates the complexity of ethical problems and how many factors must be considered.

Another (often overlooked) ethical theory to consider as a side note is dynamism: the idea that situations change, so a decision made at one time may not continue to be in the patient’s best interests. This makes some judgement calls, for example, when a patient has fluctuating capacity, incredibly difficult to handle “correctly”. Is it better to do nothing than to do what might be wrong?


Scenario: Should you allow a patient to die if their organs would save several other dying patients?

Consequentialism is another class of ethical theory where the morality of an action is based upon its consequences. Utilitarianism, a type of consequentialism, values the best interests of every individual equally when weighing up an overall outcome, whereas one’s self-interest is valued more in egoism, and less in altruism. 

The beliefs of an act utilitarian would be consistent with sacrificing one life for several others, as it directly benefits the most people. An altruist may agree with this, as the consequences faced for killing an individual person would be less important than the fact that they had saved multiple lives. 

In contrast to that, there would be no consequences for not actively influencing the situation at all by allowing the patients to die naturally, and so an egoist would disagree, alongside a rule utilitarian, that the moral principle of murder being wrong overrides all other principles.

In reality, this is complicated; the weighting of each consequence may change depending on certain circumstances. What if the patient with matching organs was in a coma with little chance of recovery, and a doctor could simply withdraw treatment? What if the patients waiting to be saved were criminals or homeless, or instead, doctors or firefighters? 

Deontology and virtue ethics

Deontological, or duty-based ethics, centre around core rules which everyone must follow. For example, Kant’s moral theory argues that the “categorical imperative” should not be violated; this is an unconditional requirement to do what would be considered right by any rational being, independent of contextual details. Another example is the prima facie duties, which includes fidelity, gratitude, justice and beneficence. Prima facie is based on intuition, literally meaning “at first glance”, so the duty most applicable to the situation is the one to take precedence.

On the other hand, a virtue ethicist aims to become a virtuous person who, by possessing desired qualities such as trustworthiness, integrity and compassion, are said to hold a complex mindset capable of dealing with complex problems intuitively. Although fundamentally different, similar outcomes could arise from applying either deontology or virtue ethics to a given situation, as they are based on similar morals such as fairness, trust and doing good.

Good medical practice

The relevance of ethics in medical practice has been recognised since the Hippocratic Oath, which states that physicians must use treatment to help the sick, never intentionally harm any patient, and keep anything that they hear in the profession secret. This ancient text is reflected in the modern day European Convention on Human Rights, for example the right to life, the rights to protection from degrading treatment and discrimination, and the right to respect for private life. Furthermore, the Good Medical Practice guidelines provided by the General Medical Council reiterate all of these points in the context of medical practice in the UK.

Medical ethics is riddled with complexity; the theory behind it has been studied over many centuries, and law and guidelines have been developed in an attempt to make sense of it all. These complexities grow when human emotion and instinct are factored into the equation, and decisions on everything from the lives of unborn foetuses to end of life care become all the more challenging.

This is the first installment by Emma in an intended series about Medical Ethics.

Image: Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

My Inspiration: Rowan Windham

By Yahan Xie – Rowan was born with a condition called Shwachman-Diamond’s Syndrome and it affects many parts of the body including the bone marrow, skeletal system…

By Yahan Xie

Rowan was born with a condition called Shwachman-Diamond’s Syndrome and it affects many parts of the body including the bone marrow, skeletal system, pancreas, and numerous others that I’m forgetting about right now. He went through so much in such a short amount of time.

He spent a third of his life in the hospital and also underwent almost 100 surgeries. Even with everything that he went through, he still loved every day of his life. “I love my life!” were the last words he said before he was intubated for the last time. Not a day went by that he didn’t say “I love my life!”, and he truly meant it. He was my rock on many of my darkest days. I still remember how whenever I hit a new low, I thought, “If Rowan will be ok, then I’ll be ok.” I always wore my “Rally for Rowan” shirts on hard days as a reminder to keep going even when life’s hard. I still do that sometimes. I wore it once underneath another shirt when I ran a tough mudder at camp one summer since I didn’t want to get it dirty, but I still wanted to bring Rowan along to keep me going since I didn’t want to do it. It turned out to be an amazing experience and I’m so glad that I did it. 

There are so many things that I love about Rowan. I remember being immediately drawn to his story after reading about the amazing bond he had with Jalene, one of his young friends that he met while in the hospital. Throughout the 20 months that I’ve known his story, I’ve learned that we also have several things in common. We both shared a deep passion for our faith and we both loved art, cooking, and theatre. I was thrilled to find out that we had been in some of the same shows before, along with the fact that he’s been in some shows that I’ve always dreamed of being cast in, such as Shrek Jr. I also found out later that he always wanted to learn the violin, an instrument I’ve played for 6 years. Ever since I came to know Rowan’s story, I always dreamed about making it down to Texas someday to meet him in person to talk about all of the stuff that we had in common, to teach him violin, and to thank him for all that God has done through him. It still hurts knowing that that chance will never come. I still have goals of making it down to Texas one day, I just have a different itinerary this time around.

Rowan’s amazing faith deeply inspired me. I remember when he was just about to leave for Seattle around this time last year. He and his mom were talking about what was going to happen in the coming months. He said, “I’m 100% sure that I want to get the transplant. Even if there was only a 50/50 chance it would work, there’s a 100% chance it won’t work…if I don’t take the chance. And with God, I feel like it’s a 100% chance I will make it through this. I’d rather take the chance of it working, and the risk of it not working…even if there’s a chance of death…because I trust my life with God.” He also said, “I’ll be ok either way” to refer to how he knew he’d be ok even if he did go to Heaven because of how amazing a place it is. Copying that dialogue over now still makes me lose my breath at how amazing his words are. He truly was wise beyond his years. 

Another thing that I loved about Rowan was his selflessness. He never only focused on himself. Someone else who also loved him recently posted to Facebook about a dream that she had. In the dream, Rowan kept having to move hospital rooms to make room for other patients. But he didn’t mind. He was more concerned about the person who needed the room than he was with himself. The dream has been hard for me to forget. There is no doubt that that’s something he would have actually done if he ever found himself in that situation. When he was younger, an organization called Kidd’s Kids had arranged a trip to Disney World for him and his family. Like any kid, Rowan really enjoyed the trip. But unlike most kids, the question he had asked his mom when the trip ended wasn’t, “When can we go again?”. Instead, he was more concerned about the question, “What can I do so more kids can go next year?”.

Plans for a lemonade stand came together relatively quickly. Rowan’s fundraiser soon became an annual thing which quickly expanded. Overall, he raised nearly $15,000 for Kidd’s Kids. He also greatly cared for his friends and their families. He was very close with two of his friend’s mommas, Jalene and Adrian moms, and I’m sure that there were many others as well. Around this time last year, he was working on a memorial garden to honor Jalene. I still remember following the progress on it through his mom’s blog. I could tell that he had put a lot of time, effort, and love into the project. It came out to be really amazing. 

I remember when school first started, I wanted to send Rowan something as he was going through his first transplant, so I asked his mom what his favorite colors were and I made him a kusudama. His mom sent me a picture after it arrived, and it also made a few appearances in pictures that have been shared to his mom’s blog which is sweet. Because I was shipping a whole pack of play-doh along with the kusudama, it turned out to be a relatively heavy package, which meant it cost more than I expected to ship. I remember walking out of the post office at my school realizing that I wasn’t so concerned about the shipping price like I usually am when stuff costs more than I expected. I then realized that it didn’t remotely matter to me at that moment. I just wanted Rowan to feel loved and like he could still be a kid despite everything that he was going through.

Unfortunately, because of what Rowan means to me, that has made having to let him go very difficult. I know what grief is like. It has crept into my life on many occasions after I’ve had to outlive so many of my biggest inspirations. Yet having to live with a Rowan-sized hole in my heart is hands-down the hardest thing that I’ve had to ever walk through. The pain has lessened with time, but it hasn’t disappeared completely. 

So to wrap up, I guess, I’m sure you can tell what an amazing boy Rowan is and always will be. And I hope that you’ll be able to understand why he means so much to me. 

You can visit Rowan’s mom’s blog here.

You can also visit Yahan’s tribute Instagram account here.

Images: Photos of Rowan have been provided by his family. Main image by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Life During COVID Archive

By Ciéra Cree – People from across society are being invited by a group of researchers at Anglia Ruskin University to share their stories from the lockdown period caused by COVID-19…

By Ciéra Cree

People from across society are being invited by a group of researchers at Anglia Ruskin University to share their stories from the lockdown period caused by COVID-19.

The digital archive, which shall be known as ‘Life During Covid’, is being compiled by Dr Ceri Wilson, alongside Dr Pauline Lane, Rebecca Chandler and Dr Julie Teatheredge. This project has been funded by the Anglia Ruskin University Research and Innovation Support Fund and is operating as an extension of StoryLab’s initiative ‘The Frontline’, where stories of frontline workers during the pandemic have additionally been collected. Both of these archives will result in the production of insightful historical compilations that can be looked back on in the years to come.

“We are living in unprecedented times and everyone is trying to overcome their own challenges during this global pandemic. It is a time of reduced social contact, of isolation and concern, but there will also be positive stories that have come out of lockdown too.”

ARU Researchers

The appeal is specifically seeking to hear stories from certain groups of people to remain in line with work paralleling the efforts of ARU’s Positive Ageing Research Institute (PARI) and academics from the School of Nursing and Midwifery. Thus, the stories being sought after are namely concerning those who are shielding and over the age of 65, those who are 18+ and have been identified as ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’, parents of children identified as vulnerable, and unpaid family carers of people who are living with dementia. 

If you know anyone who falls into these categories that wishes to become involved they can upload their stories, photos, artwork or videos to The tales uploaded there will then be published online for public viewing, and will potentially become a part of the formation of a longer audio-visual documentary reflecting on the COVID-19 period. Although the uploads shall be public and also go on to inform future research publications and presentations, none of the participants will be identified by name in any reporting of the findings.

‘We hope [that] this initiative will give vulnerable communities a voice, empowering them to share their own unique perspectives during the outbreak.’

For more information about contributing to the ‘Life During Covid’ archive, or if you would prefer to submit your story via email, please get in touch with Dr Ceri Wilson at

Keep up with the ‘Life During Covid’ Twitter page here.

*Deadline for submissions is July 31st, 2020*

Image: De an Sun on Unsplash

I Hate Quarantine: A Sanity Memoir

By Chelsea Furr – Before I start – here’s a little about me. I am firmly set somewhere between an introvert and an extrovert. It depends on the crowd and…

By Chelsea Furr

Before I start – here’s a little about me. I am firmly set somewhere between an introvert and an extrovert. It depends on the crowd and the person that you ask. When I am out with my friends, I am a loud chatterbox, leading the buddy system of hysterical familiars on a pub-crawl because I know that, in the end, I can crawl back into my bed to recuperate.

I have enjoyed being in the office and talking to people in the kitchen, but there are some days where I have things to do and prefer to have my headphones firmly on.

But at this point, I think we can all agree that the wish not to travel into the office every morning has become relishing each shopping trip like a breath of fresh air in the blur of quarantine. 

Here is a little more about me. I come in two states: one clean and tidy until I’m sick or stressed for an exam, and the other is piles of clothes and binge-watching TV until I get the panicked urge to clean and procrastinate. I hate quarantine. I hate that I can’t go to see the people that I love. I hate that the running joke is that I must enjoy this solitude. But I know that I am not doing it for myself. I am doing it for everyone else. For everyone’s immune-weak child and grandparent.

So, here is how I am staying sane.

Blast uplifting, soul-pumping music and have a dance session – I call it ‘exercise’ – and if you are doing something like the laundry, treat it like a bonus. Who’s watching? I found that by the end of my dance sessions, I’ve also managed to correct my bad posture brought on from endless hours of social media and series-binging too. So, it’s a ‘double bonus’!

Get sunlight. I know it’s hard indoors, but like a house plant (or wallflower) you need some Vitamin D. Work, read, sit, and video chat by a window. Not only will it put less of a spooky look in your camera lens, but, maybe, you’ll get a tan. This also means getting out of bed on weekends before lunch. I set multiple alarms to make sure that I get up in good time, as begrudged as I am, and it keeps me in some sort of ‘rhythm’.

We are social creatures too. Now, I am not too bad on this front, as it only takes me two weeks on average to respond to a message. But I don’t leave conversations hanging partway through. My advice is to message anyone you can to see how they are doing. Call your Mum; it will kill some hours. Hell, message your ex and clear bad blood. Email a long-forgotten friend. What are they going to do? Turn up on your doorstep? We are social animals and even if your level of socialising is the coffee barrister in the morning or that no-name in the kitchen, message them, because it might brighten up their day too.

Exercise. Good god, yes! I have been exercising in commercial breaks because, while I knew there were too many, it was starting to kill me. I have sucked dry binge-streaming of all enjoyment. Plus, getting the blood pumping after contouring your spine at your ‘home office’, or strolling with your neck kinked downwards, does wonders for your mood. Find a free workout video on the internet or just resort to advice point one and rock out on the couch.

Do anything and everything that you said you would do in your spare time. I tick-off small goals like calling my family or organising video-lunch catch-ups with friends. Take an online class. Learn a new skill. Do more than these four walls allow. I am not saying that there aren’t days that I don’t stay in bed and eat between napping. But on better days, I am chipping away at the stack of books I bought and never read. I have learned to knit and bake banana bread. I have even started developing a green thumb. Though, I could be killing these hearty succulents… I am not quite sure. I also write grocery lists and I write article pieces like this. I hope that you are doing well at this time; take each day as it comes. The current situation is out of our control. But looking after your own head and your own body is within your power. There is no perfect way to manage this time, but doing small things like checking in with your elderly neighbours and wearing a mask in public can help others as the NHS continue the fight. Good luck in staying sane and feel free to comment below with any cool ideas to pass the time. We will get through this.

Image: Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Zoom: A Lens Into People’s Lives

By Pat Lok – The COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent global lockdown, has forced us to shift our usual social interactions into a different realm…

By Pat Lok

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent global lockdown, has forced us to shift our usual social interactions into a different realm; over the past few months, online communication has become the new normal. From social media to e-mail, there are a number of different platforms to choose from, though one such platform that has seen its user base balloon in recent months is Zoom.

Zoom appears to have become a synonym to the word ‘meeting’ during this lockdown. Zoom is a free online meeting tool – now ubiquitous – that facilitates the public health strategy of social distancing while also allowing people to work from home. It is a remote meeting application that enables people to collaborate and share screens from across the world, and it has become one of the most popular supplements to in-person social interaction since nearly 20% of the world’s population is now on lockdown.

Zoom’s Market Price – November 2019 to April 2020

Zoom has been utilized to facilitate different facets of social interaction – both formal and informal. Personally, I’ve used Zoom for a meeting with research colleagues from different countries, took part in a jury trial as a research project participant, and attended a virtual pub quiz.

It’s weird how this shift in social interaction has somehow allowed me to know my peers and lecturers a bit better. Zoom lectures now have occasional background noise of family chatter and occasional interruptions from pets and children. One of my friend’s lecturers embraced the advantage of lecturing from home and gave a tutorial while nursing his child on his lap.

Zoom Etiquette

Now that my usual commute has shrunk to a trip from my bed to my desk, my work attire has also been restyled into a formal top and pyjama bottom combination. Though this did lead to an embarrassing episode where I wanted to get up and fetch a book and I accidentally flashed my Simpsons pyjama bottoms to the group call. But after attending a few more Zoom meetings since then, I am glad to know that I am not the only person who has embarrassed myself on camera like this at least once.

The inability to exercise the mute button in Zoom has become the new social faux pas. Toilet flushing, swearing and Apps notification sounds just to name a few. The New Yorker has collated a light-hearted list of tips for teachers who are using Zoom to deliver classes This can also be adopted by people who are working from home to minimise the probability of you embarrassing yourself live on Zoom. These tips include adjusting your laptop to get a better camera angle and shutting your door to prevent any unwanted screen-bombing.

Zoom’s Many Uses

Meetings are only the tip of the iceberg for this versatile application; Zoom is being used for a wide range of different things: “Zoomers” have been running the European Union, hosting virtual graduation ceremonies and events, and, tragically, even executing breakups. Although successful social distancing is perceived by some as a testament to the strength of a relationship, for others, the distance apart has proved not to be so simple.

Unnecessary outings have been discouraged in order to minimise the spread of infection. This is particularly important for potentially infectious people who, if caught going into public spaces without a valid reason, can potentially face a fine. Though we are all encouraged to stay inside, and away from large groups of people, as much as we can. As a result of this, MEP meetings in Brussels have also succumbed to Zoom; “monologues have replaced dialogues”. These meetings are for discussing plans needed to contain the virus, with the adoption of remote voting by MEPs and by getting interpreters to translate meetings into the 24 official languages of the EU in real-time. It does pose a question of whether productive and meaningful conclusions can result from these virtual meetings, however, for now, it’s the best that we can do considering the current circumstance.

While there is no sign of the lockdown being lifted anytime soon, local and international institutions are investigating the possibility of delivering their events online instead. For medical students, graduations have been brought-forward and delivered on Zoom so that they can work as interim junior doctors to assist the NHS workforce amidst the pandemic.

Although the convenience of Zoom is undeniable, it does have its drawbacks. The German government recently issued a restriction upon the use of Zoom on its citizens due to its inadequate encryption. Several other countries, as well as numerous corporations, have out-right banned the use of Zoom too because of its seemingly inadequate security.

As much as I’ve enjoyed the convenience of online meetings with Zoom, I’ve also missed the human touch of face-to-face and in-person social interaction – unbuffered, unfiltered and present. Hopefully, we can return to that life before too long.

Images: Pat Lok & Javier Molina on Unsplash

Cambridge City Council Launch a New Pilot Project to Protect & Grow the City’s Tree Population

By Joshua Dowding, Ciéra Cree & Gabs Bennington – On the 13th March, The Ruskin Journal was invited to the Guildhall, Market Square, to conduct an interview with Dr. Matthew Ling of Cambridge City Council…

By Joshua Dowding, Ciéra Cree & Gabs Bennington

On the 13th March, The Ruskin Journal was invited to the Guildhall, Market Square, to conduct an interview with Dr. Matthew Ling of Cambridge City Council regarding the launch of the Cambridge Canopy Project – a local initiative to protect and grow the city’s existing tree canopy cover. As Project Leader, Dr. Ling had been eager to share some of the details of the project with us, and we have transcribed some of the interview that followed for the convenience of our readers.

The Cambridge Canopy Project

This project is part of a larger ‘umbrella’ initiative called Nature-Smart Cities which includes other institutions such as Imperial College London and Southend-On-Sea Borough Council. The initiative will fund a number of pilot studies to ‘deploy green infrastructure solutions in an effort to help fight climate change’ – the Cambridge Canopy Project will be one such pilot. The initiative operates in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, as well as England, with another pilot project based in Southend-on-Sea, in addition to Cambridge.

The Council estimates that there are more than 300,000 trees, whether they’re on public or private land, throughout Cambridge, which equates to about 17% tree canopy cover by land area – whereas the average cover for cities in the UK sits at around 8%. Despite being ‘quite well-treed already’, the aim of this project is to uplift that coverage to 19% by 2050. To achieve this uplift, the Council told us that a total of 16,000 new trees will need to be planted throughout the city. Of these, 2,000 will be planted on Council-owned land and 1,500 will be given away through existing schemes, which leaves 12,500 trees that the Council want to ‘encourage the public’ to plant on their own private land.

‘There’s a real benefit to having areas of shade to help reduce the heat island effect in cities. For instance, having tree-lined streets with permanently shaded pavement, it could be 20 degrees cooler than it would be if it were not shaded […] That’s without thinking of [the] trees themselves physically and how they reduce air temperature just through transpiration.’ – Dr. Ling

The trees that the Council intend to plant will be more robust than those that would be planted in more rural areas, we were told. Standing at around 2 to 3 metres tall (on average) and measuring at around 6 to 8cm in diameter, Dr. Ling explained that these young trees would need to be able to withstand a life that could see them being used as make-shift bike stands, goalposts, sun shelters, targets for vandalism, and other risks to the tree’s well-being.

However, there will be limitations to where the Council can plant their 2,000 trees. Cambridge has a lot of private land that ‘can’t be touched’ by the Council itself, and even in the ‘public realm’, there have been a significant number of areas labelled as ‘unplantable’ such as near roads, pavements, brooks and rivers. Although some locations have been identified as potential candidates, Dr. Ling explained that ‘this will include some planting in the city’s parks and green open spaces’. But, as clarified, the project will focus on planting in areas that will not require lengthy public consultations or complex decisions.

‘We have [the] funding to do [this]. With purchasing a tree, the manpower to plant it, some materials like tree stakes and [tree] ties, and hydration bags, it’s coming out at around £150 per tree […] but we obviously can’t plant 100,000 [trees] just like that’ – Dr. Ling

After the 2,000 trees have been planted, the focus will then shift on to the maintenance of those trees, helping them grow, and protecting the existing tree canopy cover. However, looking beyond the Nature-Smart Cities initiative, Dr. Ling told us that the Cambridge Canopy Project will have ‘its own ambitions’ going forward; he hopes that the project will later become its ‘own entity’ and evolve beyond the lifetime of the initiative itself. Despite being part of a wider European initiative, Dr. Ling stated that the aim of the project will be to ‘deliver things on the ground that influence, impact, and benefit the city itself’, in-keeping with the remit of the City Council.

 ‘At the moment, this is so on-trend. It feels like the right moment for this project.’ – Dr. Ling


Expanding Existing Schemes

For twenty-five years, Cambridge City Council has been running a scheme called ‘Free Trees for Babies’ which gives residents having a child the opportunity to apply online and take home a tree to plant in their own gardens. Over the course of that period, ‘thousands’ of trees have been given out to Cambridge residents’, which, coupled with the ongoing planting in the public realm, has helped the Council grow the city’s urban forest at a modest rate over-time.

With an estimated 44,000 private gardens throughout the city, Dr. Ling notes that if the residents of the city could each plant one tree in their gardens, it would result in more than a ‘10% increase in the overall tree population, straight off’. The Journal noted that the Council had gathered this information with the help of an aerial photographic survey of the city.

‘Everyone’s trees are part of the whole process’ – Dr. Ling

With the introduction of the Cambridge Canopy Project, the Council hopes to up the number of trees they can offer through this existing scheme, with an aim to give away as many as ‘500 trees per-year, over a three-year period’ – totalling 1,500 trees. That’s on top of the 2,000 trees that the Council aims to plant themselves throughout the project by 2022.

The Impact of COVID-19

As is the case for everyone presently, Cambridge City Council has had to re-evaluate how it will approach some aspects of the project going forward, since a significant part of the project would have involved a degree of public outreach and awareness-raising. Many of these processes are now on hold for the time being. Nonetheless, interested members of the public can still get involved with the project in a number of different ways: the Council are currently running a survey to ‘gather insights into residents’ perceptions of trees’, the Council are also asking for help to map the locations of trees on privately-owned land, ‘especially Ash trees, and they would encourage all residents to help water their newly planted trees. These activities can be carried out during your daily exercise time out of the house whilst also observing social distancing guidance, of course.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has also forced the Council to postpone its i-Tree Eco study which would have involved students from the university helping to survey their local areas. However, as Dr. Ling explained to the Journal, in collaboration with Treeconomics Ltd, Forest Research, and Anglia Ruskin University, the Council will now employ a ‘novel approach’ to ‘engage untrained citizens’ from more than 130 households across the city to conduct the field surveys from the safety of their own homes. The Journal has been told that both university students and staff can still get involved in some aspects of this, and there will also be future opportunities to contribute to the project as well. Victoria Tait of the Global Sustainability Institute is coordinating this effort, so please contact her to express your interest in this work.

‘It’ll be a huge challenge, but it’s where we’re hoping to go.’ – Dr. Ling

Final Thoughts

It was a privilege to be able to interview a member of the City Council regarding this interesting environmental project. We hope that, despite the ongoing pandemic, the project will continue to move forward and see success in the long-term. We would like to thank Dr. Matthew Ling for his time – and his patience! – and we look forward to covering the Cambridge Canopy Project again in the near future.

Images: Devin Kleu on Unsplash

Taking Student Mental Health Seriously

By Izzy Woodcock – With more students being diagnosed with mental health problems than ever before, it’s no surprise that the ongoing mental health crisis…

Taking Student Mental Health Seriously: Why the Students’ Union Needs a Mental Health Representative

By Izzy Woodcock

With more students being diagnosed with mental health problems than ever before, it’s no surprise that the ongoing mental health crisis has had a sizable impact on student life. About a third of students that drop out of university do so because of mental health, and according to YouGov, one in every four students suffer from mental health problems whilst they study. Between October 2016 and April 2018, 12 students attending the University of Bristol took their own lives as a result of their declining mental health. Since then, that number has risen to 13.

It’s time to stop closing our eyes, crossing our fingers, and hoping that this will all go away on its own. We have to ask ourselves how we got to this point, and we need to roll up our sleeves and start to change things.

Bristol University has since taken steps to improve their mental health support system, but why was there not an investigation into the higher education sector as a whole? Why did we not prioritise mental health as one of the top issues facing students today? We can’t do this on our own. Facing this crisis on a case-by-case basis is not enough. We need to work together; we need people who are on the case.


Students’ Unions would usually have a set of full-time officers whose job it is to support and represent their students, manage campaigns, and liaise with their respective universities. And while the job descriptions vary from one to the other, some Students’ Unions have a dedicated “Health and Wellbeing” officer among their ranks. Now, our Students’ Union has a “faculty-based” officer system. This means that they do not have an officer dedicated to students’ wellbeing, instead, each officer’s role represents a specific university faculty. And while every one of our officers can address concerns regarding a students’ mental health – they’re doing so amongst other things. What’s going to happen to their existing campaigns, such as their “break the cycle” campaign, after they leave? Are we going to have a new mental health campaign every year?

Leicester University’s Students’ Union has a dedicated Wellbeing officer; the University of York has a dedicated “Community and Wellbeing” officer, the University of Newcastle has a “Welfare and Equality” officer, and the University of Nottingham has an “Equal Opportunities and Welfare” officer. The list goes on.


How then, as a Union, would we address something that’s so far-reaching that it can affect every aspect of a student’s life? Two words: Campaign Representatives.

Sexism, racism, disabilities; there’s a campaign representative for each of them. Homophobia, biphobia, and other phobias relating to sexuality; there’s a campaign representative for each of them as well.

Discrimination against people because of their mental health is real and it affects all of us. Maybe you have social anxiety, but you have to give a presentation tomorrow; maybe you have depression, but you have essays due in next week. In my opinion, the system we have now wasn’t built with mental health in mind.

Mental health is still a taboo. We just have to “get on” with things. We’re told we’re “crazy”, “lazy”, and that “something’s wrong with us”. We’re told that if they were fine at our age, we should be too. No more.


Campaign representatives are there to help alleviate these kinds of issues. They give us a voice when we’ve lost our own, or when we don’t know what to say or how to say it. In my opinion, mental health deserves this kind of dedication.

The University does do a lot to help combat its student’s mental health issues. They spend vast amounts of money on counselling as well as other tools to help their students manage their conditions. The University’s London-based campus recently introduced a “peer mental health programme” which pays students to run evening activities and offer a listening ear to their fellow peers.

So, what’s the problem with that?

It’s the communication gap. The missing link between the Students’ Union and the University regarding student mental health. We should be working together. We should let the Wellbeing Team have a visible presence in the Students’ Union, as well as on its website. The Wellbeing Team and the Activities Team should be working together to create activities to make students feel less isolated. As it stands, the Students’ Union and the University are working on parallel lines; we need to work on one line and have one goal between them. We need one individual to do this by bringing the lines together.

I have submitted a motion that would create a position within the Students’ Union for a dedicated “Wellbeing” officer. Voting shall open on Wednesday 22nd; readers can follow this event on Facebook to keep up-to-date with its progress.

Images: Eric Ward on Unsplash, Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash & Ana Flávia on Unsplash

Major Upcoming Software Releases

By Joshua Dowding – 2020 will be a hectic year for some of the world’s largest software companies. Each of the three top operating systems, including Windows, macOS, and Ubuntu Linux…

By Joshua Dowding

2020 will be a hectic year for some of the world’s largest software companies. Each of the three top operating systems, including Windows, macOS, and Ubuntu Linux, will see significant new releases either within the next few weeks, or within the next five months in Apple’s case. In this article, I’d like to go over some of the more impactful features and changes for each release and discuss when to expect these new versions to land.

Windows 10 20H1 ‘2004’

Microsoft’s first significant update to their Windows operating system will see the version bump to 20H1 or 2004 – both denoting the same release. It’s expected to land sometime in April as a free update for existing Windows 10 users, and come with a bevvy of changes and improvements across the board.

Preview releases have been made available through the Windows Insider Program, though for those less inclined to experiment with something as fundamental as their operating system, here’s a round-up of some of the changes you can expect to see from the 20H1 update.


Cortana Improvements

Microsoft has improved the Cortana experience on Windows 10 by refactoring it into its own application instead of being tied into the operating system. This means that future improvements to Cortana won’t have to wait for significant releases. Cortana will be updated through the Microsoft Store instead, so updates will come more frequently than before.

What’s more: Microsoft claims to have improved Cortana’s performance “significantly”, they’ve refreshed it’s user interface, it’ll respect the user’s current theme setting now – light or dark, and users can interact with Cortana by typing into a “chat box” instead of just talking to it.

Desktop Improvements

20H1 will tout a variety of smaller improvements and changes. Some of the more noteworthy among these will include: the File Explorer’s new search interface powered by the new “Windows Search” system, improvements to the Windows Ink experience including direct access to the Microsoft Whiteboard and Snip & Sketch applications from the taskbar, the ability to make a device “passwordless” which removes the traditional password prompt from the lockscreen, the second release for the Windows Subsystem for Linux with improvements to I/O performance, and the ability to rename Virtual Desktops after they’ve been created and save them between reboots.

There are many other changes coming to the 20H1 release. Windows Central have an up-to-date list of them on their website which I’d encourage you to checkout if you’re interested.

Ubuntu 20.04 LTS ‘Focal Fossa’

For those after my own heart, you may have heard about, or used, Canonical’s popular Ubuntu operating system. For those who don’t know, Ubuntu is a free and open-source operating system developed by Canonical, a London-based company, for desktops, laptops, servers, and IoT devices. 20.04 has been slated for release on the 23rd of April and will be an important update for Ubuntu ecosystem since it’ll be supported for at least five years after launch. These ‘long-term support releases’ tend to form the basis of third-party platforms, so here’s a round-up of the features coming in its upcoming release.

Default Theme Improvements & Dark Theme

One of the more striking improvements to make it’s way to Ubuntu 20.04 LTS will be it’s improved default theme. This time, it comes in light, mixed (“standard”), and dark variants, with a handy toggle setting to choose between them from the Settings application.

This brings 20.04 on-par with other operating systems that include a darker theme variant. Ubuntu already has a ‘night light’ feature to help ease the levels of blue light emanating from the screen, but a dark theme variant would go some way further to help those who still experience eye strain.

Moreover, 20.04 ships with a new set of icons and a visual refresh to the ascent colours used throughout the operating system. These include a mixture of subtle, but uniform orange and purple highlights, replacing the cacophony of greens, blues, and oranges seen in previous releases.


Desktop Improvements

Canonical contributes to an upstream project called GNOME which has been serving as Ubuntu’s default desktop environment since it abandoned Unity back in 2017. 20.04 ships with the recently released GNOME 3.36 which, in-tern, comes with a number of improvements that 20.04 will inherit. These include: an improved lock screen that displays a blurred variant of the user’s desktop wallpaper in the background, a ‘do not disturb’ toggle that’ll prevent notifications from being displayed, improvements to ‘app folders’ including the ability to rename them while they’re open, a new ‘Extensions’ application for handling desktop extensions, ‘password peeking’ in password fields, and a mixture of other system-wide changes to help improve its performance and fluidity.


System Improvements

For those of a more technical disposition, Ubuntu 20.04 will ship with support for displaying an OEM, or vendor logo on boot. 20.04 will also feature improvements to multi-monitor support in GDM (which provides both the lock and the login screens amongst other things), as well as improved support for ZFS (though this is labelled as ‘experimental’ in the installer), and Linux Kernel 5.4 to boot. In addition, 20.04 will also feature the usual smorgasbord of package updates available from the distro archive.

macOS 10.16 (‘Catalina + 1’) et al.

Apple is expected to hold their virtual developers conference – WWDC – later in June, and while we never know in advance what Apple might announce at its events, we can still look at the trends from previous years, and the rumours that have been reported on across the web.

Traditionally, Apple unveils it’s latest software releases at WWDC; from macOS to iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and even tvOS. These releases tend to drop in the autumn of the same year – either in September or October. With that said, let’s take a look at what we believe will be included with the upcoming macOS 10.16 release.


macOS & iOS – Destinies Entwined?

While Apple has stated that they will not merge macOS and iOS, for fear of diluting the two operating systems, Apple has continued to make strides in recent years with integrating the two systems into one seamless ecosystem. In macOS 10.15, Apple depreciated iTunes in favour of its new TV, Podcasts, Music applications which had been carried over from iOS thanks to another feature of 10.15 – it’s new cross-platform development tools. Likewise, Project Catalyst allows developers to port their iPadOS applications to the Mac with relative ease.

What’s more; Apple has recently built-in support for Universal Purchasing into iOS 13, allowing developers to provide a single licence that grants access to one application on a variety of different Apple platforms, including the Mac.

Additionally, macOS 10.15 introduced the Screen Time feature from iOS 12, as well as a new shared feature for both macOS and iPadOS called Sidecar, which allows users to use their iPad as a second display for their Mac.

And let’s not forget the rumours of an ARM-based Mac making an appearance in the not-too-distant future. Meaning that the Mac could share the same fundamental hardware platform as iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, and watchOS. After all, Apple has been developing their own proprietary processors since the introduction of the first iPad which debuted the Apple A4 system-on-a-chip. Apple continues to develop their own silicon to this day. Could a future Apple processor debut for the Mac?


While AppleInsider reports that both iOS 14 and macOS 10.16 could feature improvements to their respective Messages applications, beyond that the rumour mill isn’t betting high on anything else that’s leaked so far.

Final Thoughts

2020 is already shaping up to be an important year for the software industry. I look forward to taking each of these new releases for a test-drive closer to their respective release dates, and I’d encourage the adventurous to do the same. Fire-up a virtual machine, or load-up a release candidate on an old compute; it’ll be something mildly interesting to do during the lockdown!

Images: Joshua Dowding, Wikipedia, Geekrar, Digital Trends, and Brett Jordan on Unsplash

What Is It Like to Be a HCP Student Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic?

By Pat Lok – As the World Health Organization (WHO) declares COVID-19 as a pandemic, many organizations, whether public or private…

By Pat Lok

As the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic, many organizations, whether public or private, have begun carrying out their emergency measures as-per the WHO guidelines – closing non-essential businesses, limiting social interaction, and encouraging frequent, thorough hand-washing to minimize the risk of infection.

However, a certain sub-section of the student populous, the ‘healthcare professional’ students (HCP), are stuck in the grey area. The university trains a large cohort of healthcare professionals; these include paramedics, midwives, nurses, operating department practitioners (ODPs), physician associates (PAs) as well as doctors. But as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in the East of England, where most HCP students go to work on placement, it’s difficult to say whether such placements should be called off or not.

A live dashboard recording confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom. Source: Public Health England

Clinical placements are integral to a HCP student’s learning; it’s where we get to implement our theoretical learning and clinical skills – we get to practice in real life. Bedside manner and clerking patients are experiences that you have to accumulate over-time; it’s not a skill that you can master within the length of a degree.

Due to their crowded timetables, it may be unrealistic for the university to rearrange placements at such short notice since the placement coordinator has to consider the availability of senior clinicians to supervise students and other corresponding logistics.

What Do Some HCP Students Think?

Mae Hollebon, a first-year midwifery student from Chelmsford, talks about her experience of going on a placement amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Personally I’m not overly worried about going on placement with the increase in cases although I know some people are! I’m just washing my hands thoroughly and often – which we do anyway! The ward I’m working on has had a couple of changes- if women have any symptoms they have to be checked over by a doctor before being readmitted to the ward! Otherwise, we haven’t been affected much on the postnatal ward. Things are changing very quickly; a lot of staff are off as they consider themselves as high risk. Mothers are not allowed visitors anymore and their partners can only stay limited hours.”

I also spoke with a second-year paramedic student who will go on placement in both London and Essex.

“We’re younger than the population who tends to be affected by COVID-19 which is majority [of] elderly people. However, the nature of our placement is that we get rotated around when we go on placements. For example, I will be spending a period of time in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), followed by A&E, followed by the maternity ward. I’m just thinking that if I were to be infected, it will be sometime before the symptoms emerge as a study recently reported that it takes an estimated 5.1 days for patients to be symptomatic. By then I will have rotated to another ward and could be infecting other people.”

In a document sent to paramedic students through the university, The London Ambulance Service (LAS) tries to address some of our paramedic students’ worries over COVID-19.

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A screenshot of a LAS document that was sent to paramedic students via the University.

Pat Lok, author and second-year medical student, who has recently finished her GP placement, talks about her experience of going on clinical placement in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic.

“It could be quite scary to see the number of COVID-19 cases going up every day but we’re taking the corresponding preventative measures, such as washing hands after seeing each patient. Some of my peers had PPE (personal protective equipment) training, a lecture on COVID-19 and the results of the ongoing screen programme that is being carried out when they were on their GP placement.

We were informed by our School of Medicine recently that our 3-week block placement will carry on as usual in 2 weeks; a few of my peers will be having their placement at hospitals with infected individuals. I’m not particularly frightened as this is what we are trained for, to look after the sick and come up with a solution to combat this contagious virus.”

How Are Our Counterparts Reacting to COVID-19?

Medical professionals regularly hold conferences and meet-ups to disseminate research and exchange ideas. It’s an established and efficient way to be kept up-to-date about the details that matter to our profession. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many medical conferences have been cancelled or postponed for an undetermined period of time.

Some universities are cancelling their OSCE examinations (objective structured clinical examination) for their final year medical students. OSCE is an important performance indicator of healthcare professional student as it assesses your communication skills, clinical reasoning, as well as your clinical knowledge.

What Happens Now?

COVID-19 is not an incurable disease. The WHO reported that people with mild illness will recover in about 2 weeks, while those with more severe presentations may take 3-6 weeks. The mortality rate of COVID-19 is a bit less than 1%, as estimated by Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England. We can adopt protective measures, recommended by the WHO to protect ourselves from contracting the virus, by washing your hands frequently, maintaining social distance and avoid touching eyes, noses and mouths.

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Advice from the WHO on preventive measures. Source: WHO

As for us HCP students, the COVID-19 pandemic could be seen as an invaluable learning opportunity. The outbreak of infectious viruses isn’t new to the UK; in the past, the UK has tackled outbreaks of SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and Ebola. So when HCP students go on their clinical placements, we should be supportive and understanding of NHS staff who are working on the front line amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, and try to absorb some of their talent and experience as we work.

Update: At the point of publication, all medical placements have been cancelled for all ARU medical students and second-year paramedic students until further notice.

Images: Pat Lok & Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash

Connected: Social Media & Online Friends – A Discussion

By Ciéra Cree & Soyeenka Mishra – Social media is everywhere – and I mean everywhere. In our hands, in our subconscious, and on the walls of our go-to coffee shops. It’s inescapable…

By Ciéra Cree & Soyeenka Mishra

Social media is everywhere – and I mean everywhere. In our hands, in our subconscious, and on the walls of our go-to coffee shops. It’s inescapable – almost trapping at times – but there’s no doubt that the ease of communication it brings is remarkable. You can talk to anyone at anytime and your conversation can take place literally anywhere.

I decided to have a discussion with Soyeenka, an online friend of mine living in India, about the topic of online friendship and social media in general. I wanted to see how she would respond to some of my thoughts and questions on the subject. This is an excerpt from the discussion we had together.

A selection of international snacks!

Q1: Do you use many social media platforms?

Soyeenka: ‘Umm, I don’t really know how many counts as too many. I definitely have accounts in MANY social media platforms (most of them abandoned), but I regularly use three of them: WhatsApp, Instagram and Pinterest. And Buzzfeed too, if that counts.’

Q2: Have you made many friends online?

Soyeenka: ‘I have made around 4 friends online, out of whom, you are the only one I’m still in contact with (not for lack of trying on my part, though). 2 of them either stopped replying or didn’t bother to start up a conversation, and the one who is left I talked to infrequently throughout last year but I guess we are still pretty close since we share some common interests. I felt distant when I talked with them really.’

Q3: Have you come across any dangers online regarding this?

Soyeenka: ‘Not yet, no. I’ve gotten quite a few messages from creepy sounding people so I just ignore them at all times. Prevention is better than cure, in most cases, therefore I don’t respond to anything that seems remotely off. So no, I haven’t come across anything potentially dangerous when making friends online.’

Q4: Do you consider online friends to be actual friends and, if so, what would you say to those who don’t?

Soyeenka: ‘I definitely consider online friends as actual friends, if not more. I have a total of 4 close friends, and I’m very chatty with 2 of them. I talk with you nearly as often as them (I’m sure we would talk more if it were not for the time zone difference).’

‘To those who don’t consider online friends as actual friends, they must really have a genuine out-of-the-way reason for thinking so. I mean, hey, the other person might be considering you as a really good friend and here you are, just using them to pass time. Friendship is a two-way street, therefore both of the people must be equally invested in it. The people who don’t consider an online friend as actual friends are unconsciously wasting their own time too, with meaningless (on their part) talks as well as the time of the other person (since there are people out there who truly want to make friends). As for me, I definitely consider the connection I have with people I befriend online as actual friendship.’

Q5: As a whole, what do you think about social media?

Soyeenka: ‘I can identify what problems/dangers a person may face as side effects of social media, but I tend to stay safe and use it in an appropriate manner. That being said, I consider it to be a place where we can find the content of our interest (for me that being the likes of fanfiction and fanart). We can also connect with people all over the world, but that’s not something new.’

‘It’s through the means of social media that we can also follow the lives of the people we look up to or admire. Apart from the general uses of it to make friends and talk with them, social media also provides a platform where one can choose to remain anonymous if they want to, supplying them with the self-confidence and courage they may lack during a real-life conversation.’

‘I agree that there are far too many cons of social media keeping in mind how the world is today, but as long as it’s used sensibly these can be largely avoided. I personally love social media, it helps me to discover things within my interests such as book recommendations.’

Q6: Where do you see social media heading in the future?

Soyeenka: ‘Well, social media has definitely come a long way from where it started. People can not only share their thoughts and pictures, but also other things like media files, documents etc.’

‘Nowadays people are so invested in social media that returning to real life can seem hard. Heck, people have close-knit friend circles over social media as well as friends who without it they would have never come into contact with. At the same time, however, social media to some extent contributes to the detriment of people (but all the memes are cool though…). Jokes aside, what turn social media would take in the future, in my opinion, totally depends on the developers and the current generation who both use the platforms now and shall also be the ones developing them further in years to come.’

‘In the future I just want it to be something parents warn their children not to use, at least not without the necessary restrictions. It should be something people can look forward to after a long day of school, work or whatever it may be as a place to destress as opposed to one which can sadly cause further tension and anxiety among its users.’

What are your thoughts on social media and our increasingly connected future? Are you a pessimist, an optimist, or a mixture of the two?

Featured photo by Robin Worrall on Unsplash

Cambridge to Host Upcoming Global Health Conference

By Joshua Dowding – On 19th March, Cambridge Global Health Partnerships – known as the CGHP – will be hosting their second Global Health Conference since it’s debut back in 2018. This year’s event…

By Joshua Dowding

On 19th March, Cambridge Global Health Partnerships will be hosting their second Global Health Conference since it’s debut back in 2018. This year’s event has been touted to be larger and more featureful than the previous event, with more guest speakers, panels and exhibitors attending at Hughes Hall, Cambridge University.

In a program sent to us from CGHP, the conference will be split into three distinct sessions: the first focuses on ‘primary care and public health’, the second focuses on ‘global health’, while the third ‘evening session’ focuses on networking. Each session features a variety of keynote speeches from industry veterans and academics, as well as a number of panels, presentations and receptions for guests to mingle with the speakers. All-in-all, the day will go on from 8 AM to 8 PM, with registration starting from 8:30 AM and the first talk scheduled for 9 AM.

The conference aims to connect global health professionals across disciplines, counties and countries. The conference will also consider the future of global health activity across the region” – CGHP press release

According to the press release, the conference will also see the launch of a new ‘database’ that aims to ‘map the global health network across the East of England’ and ‘facilitate cross-country, interdisciplinary collaboration’ between institutions. With this new database, the CGHP and its sponsors hope to ‘enable the East of England to maximise it’s potential to make further contributions to global health causes.’ An apt mission statement given the current circumstances in Wuhan, China and beyond.

This year’s event will be themed around ‘how can Cambridge be a transformative player in global health.’ Again, an apt statement given that we have so many local pharmaceutical and biotechnical companies present in and around the city.

The Journal understands that the event will be sponsored by such entities as NHS Health Education England and the National Institute of Health Research. Several branches of the NHS will also be helping to organise the event alongside Hughes Hall, Public Health at Cambridge, Cambridge Africa and the Global Health Research Group on Neurotrauma.

We’ve been told that such high-profile speakers as Professor Dame Sally Davis, former Chief Medical Officer to the British Government and Special Envoy on Antimicrobial Resistance, will be in attendance. Alongside such other speakers as Professor Amanda Howe of the Royal College of General Practitioners and Norwich Medical School, Professor Nigel Unwin of Research in Global Public Health at the MRC Epidemiology, Doctor Atiya Kamal of the University of Derby, and many other confirmed guests – totalling fifteen so far. Plenty of names to network with!

Opportunities & Competitions

Our students have been invited to submit a poster relating to ‘global health research, education or practice’ to be shown at the conference. Should yours be selected, you will be invited to attend the conference free-of-charge and given the opportunity to present your poster to the guests and attendees. You will also be with a chance to win a £50 book voucher, all for a poster!

The deadline for submissions is the 4th of March. Submissions can be forwarded to CGHP at the following address: It could be something for your CV!

Our PhD students have also been invited to act as ‘Assistant Rapporteurs’ at the event, tasked to report on each of the items taking place at the conference and taking note of the main discussion points at the various keynotes, workshops and panels. You will then have the opportunity to publish a report summarising your findings. This could be something for your portfolio!

For more information regarding the competition and how to enter, follow this link to the flyer provided by the CGHP Press Office. Details of how to attend the event can be found on the Eventbrite listing.


Image: The Climate Reality ProjectUnsplash

Let’s Celebrate JOMO!

By Maria-Cristina Ionita – Drinks with friends, assignments due, societies to join, events to attend, work, relationships etc. As a student, I believe I have so many opportunities but such little time. Some might argue that the key to this problem is…

By Maria-Cristina Ionita

Let’s all celebrate the joy of missing out!

Drinks with friends, assignments due, societies to join, events to attend, work, relationships etc. As a student, I believe I have so many opportunities but such little time. Some might argue that the key to this problem is successful time management, but let’s not forget that we are only humans and we are not in control of everything, no matter how much we may try. Remember that change in deadline? Or that birthday party which you completely forgot about? Or that friend that needed help to get through his problems? 

FOMO (standing for the ‘fear of missing out’) is a serious issue for students today, especially with social media showing everything that we are “missing out” on. It leaves us feeling the undeniable pressure to constantly be doing something, especially in our free time. I see myself involved in so many things: running a society, attending different events, going to class, working 4 days per week and writing my assignments, all at the same time! And I still feel like I am missing out on chances to network, to improve my personal and professional skills, to change the world a little bit, and to make sure I do not waste any second as a student at ARU. I have been talking to many students and they feel the same way: we are afraid of missing out on the opportunities of our lifetimes! Many of us came to study here with the hope that we can have better resources compared to our home countries, but we are stressing so much over striving for more that we can forget to enjoy a cup of coffee with a friend in the afternoon or to read a book that we like. 

But now I ask you: Why aren’t we celebrating the JOMO (the ‘joy of missing out’)? 

The main way that I deal with FOMO is to remind myself that I am doing my best and that I need to hold myself accountable for my physical and mental health. I love being around people and engaging in different activities with other students, but I also know the importance of giving myself breaks and time alone to enjoy my own company. I praise myself every time I stop grabbing a convenient takeaway on-the-go and instead choose to enjoy a lovely chai latte in, listening to Christmas Carols and catching up with my family from back home. Choose to be happy, not just busy. At the end of the day, you should feel accomplished and blessed, not exhausted and anxious. It is the small things that can help you, but if you feel like you need help, do not be afraid to seek it.

In order to give our best, I believe that we need to be in our best condition, so do not lose yourself in the process of becoming your best self.

Image: Alejandro Ortiz on Unsplash