Looking back on 2020, my expectations for the year reminded me of a Renaissance landscape painting: perfectly planned realism, somewhat predictable but undeniably beautiful. The reality of this pandemic year has been more like an abstract portrait: pushing the boundaries of reality, unexpected, somewhat confronting but holding a beauty of it’s own.
My Renaissance landscape was the year of travel that I’d planned, exploring the world between the end of high school and the beginning of university. After a celebratory summer at home, I jetted off at the end of January to New York City.
Those weeks living in NYC and working with the School of New York Times will remain with me for life, both in the experiences with friends and the things I learnt about the world and journalism. With only a few cases reported in Australia, I remember my mum telling me that I was acting a bit paranoid by wearing a make-shift cloth over my face to Sydney airport after we couldn’t find any masks in the shops. It didn’t seem the case when less than two months later when the School of New York Times was shut down and I was on a flight back home to Sydney, forfeiting my year of travel.
I was able to avoid wallowing in thoughts of what might have been by diving straight into university. The course I had deferred for a year at the University of Technology Sydney had only started a week before I came back, and with a lot of international students withdrawing, I was able to begin. Even though everything started on Zoom and Teams, I loved my degree immediately. My double degree is a Bachelor of Communication (majoring in Media Arts and Production and Journalism) and a Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation.
My journalism subjects threw me right into writing, having to conduct interviews and produce multi-media content from the first subject!
My first video package was a story on Australia’s contact tracing app COVIDSafe.
I also really enjoyed following the conflict between the Australian government and tech giants Google and Facebook over the globally unprecedented News Media Bargaining Code. It has been designed to allow news media businesses to bargain with Google and Facebook over payment for their content.
Within my media arts subjects, I began to wrap my head around the Adobe Creative Cloud! One of the more notable projects was a short documentary I completed with a small group. We delved into the incredible story of Richard Tombs, an ex-Wallaby player relearning to walk after a recent on spinal injury.
The other facet of my degree was the very new Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation – a cross-disciplinary course of “that encompasses high-level critical and creative thinking, invention, complexity, innovation, future scenario building and entrepreneurship; leading-edge capabilities that are highly valued in the globalised world.” This elusive and very exciting sounding degree is being implemented by only few universities around the world, and was actually the reason I chose my university. It has been so engaging to work with UTS students from all different faculties to problem solve real world issues. We worked on a few problems this year, one included planning out a way for Newcastle, a city in Australia heavily dependent on coal, to transfer to a more sustainable industry. Some of the best ideas were selected to be presented to real life stakeholders, which was incredible. It seemed like a leap of faith to pick such an ambiguous degree, but it was a good choice, and I’m excited to see which other problem spaces I’ll work with, and the new skills I’ll attain.
All the while, I was at home living with just my grandfather! My family were only a five minute drive away, but we were in very strict isolation due to his age and health. Alone in the house together for weeks on end, I came to a new appreciation of our relationship. Not only did he improve my Greek, but I’d arrive home from morning runs to his beautiful salads, and we’d check on each other during the day – him repainting the window seals, and me trying to come up with a news story unrelated to COVID-19. This 80 year old man doesn’t even know the word vegan, yet once a week or so he would still make me a massive batch of soup free of meat, eggs and dairy (complaining all the while that I would die of malnutrition soon, if I didn’t stop this :)) Through it all, we managed to keep each other slightly more sane.
It appears that just about everyone had time for an unexpected quarantine hobby, and I found myself releasing YouTube videos with advice and explanations of topics in Australia’s final high school exams – the HSC. Picking up some work as a high school tutor, I found myself explaining the same concepts over and over, and it was surprisingly fulfilling to solidify these into videos. It made me feel as though all those hours of effort in my final years could be used again, and it gave me a chance to practice the new video skills I was learning at university!
While I could’ve been reflecting on a picture perfect year of travel and adventure, I must admit, 2020 did bring beauty in its own way, even if it was slightly abstracted. In the scheme of all that has and is happening around the globe, I’m incredibly thankful for that. Wherever you are, I hope that 2020 held some surprising beauty for you too, and happy 2021!