An Update on My Undergraduate Studies

Almost two entire months passed since I last updated you on the impact SARS-CoV2 has had on my undergraduate studies. In my previous article How Coronavirus Affected My Undergraduate Studies, I discussed the first few steps the University of Southampton took to transition towards an online-learning approach. In this post, I want to explain my current circumstances, hoping to shed some light to this matter.

Thoughts on online learning

Transition Week to online lectures went smoothly. For a person who works on the computer a lot, the information the University gave students was not new to me. I imagine those less accustomed to technology might have found it useful and necessary. The tutorial on how the University website works will be beneficial for future Freshers, who will not experience the same amount of face-to-face interactions with lecturers.

The rest of the semester was not much different from what I expected. Although I had to watch past recordings of lectures, some modules also offered a live session to catch up with the specific subject and ask questions. However, not every lecturer – for a variety of reasons – connected with us students outside the classroom. I do not intend this comment to criticise their method, but I have preferences for lecture delivery. In my case, I didn’t like Piazza, an online chat where students can post queries in a forum divided by module. In contrast, I loved Teams sessions, hosted by the Microsoft app.

Let’s talk about Piazza. If you are a student at the University of Southampton, you might have heard about it. Some of my lecturers used it during the lecture slot to see if people wanted to post questions to discuss. There are pros and cons, as with everything else in life. It allows shier students to come up with anonymous questions, but it is less dynamic than Teams calls. I’ll elaborate. While it is useful to answer queries about next year, module choices and general topics, it is a slow tool in replying during the allocated slot for the lecture. I saw a vast difference in the amount of questions asked in Teams versus Piazza, Teams being the most interactive.

Did online learning change my study method? Yes and no. In my article How To Study Effectively: My Method, I explained how I get good grades and still find time to follow my passions, blogging included. If you read it, you will remember I had the chance to fine-tune my system to be more efficient for the future. At the same time, I stuck to a similar study routine to the one I had in the UK.

How did the student’s dilemma change?

As I approached the end of the semester, I began to wonder what will happen next year. After the assessment period, this issue became bigger. No one knows for sure, but some universities issued messages to their students early in April and May, stating most learning will still be online. This shook me and I felt I needed to ask questions to my lecturers. The reality is: they are still working on it.

I would lie if I told you I did not lose my motivation. After I read the news, I realised there will be issues to face and I thought about dropping out. My internet searches were speaking for themselves. The first thought I had was to see if I could go to university in Italy, trying to find a similar course to Neuroscience. No definite answer came out of my research. And I was only getting more and more depressed and negative about the future.

When I realised my only option was to continue my studies in the UK, I had to work on myself to resolve my worries. This shift is the reason I think the student dilemma changed. It moved from needing to let go of deadlines and routine, to find a new schedule. Or at least, to find a new purpose. Time passes and worries get bigger and bigger. I believe there is the need to review our attitude towards the current situation. University finished, but this does not mean we can’t create new opportunities.

The quick resolutions I created

In my previous article, I underlined how difficult it was to manage my student life during quarantine. Being used to deadlines and schedules, I had to deal with a lot of spare time. I had to put together a quick solution. Apart from sticking to a routine, I took up a series of side activities to keep me occupied.

In the first few days of May, I formed a more rounded idea of my career path. Computational Neuroscience is the topic that interests me the most at the moment, so I reached out to professors in that field. My primary purpose was to get a guide and a rough pathway of modules I can choose in the next years. After following the advice given by the lecturers, I bought three books about Python and R coding. And this is where my advice comes in. Find hobbies and projects to keep you entertained during the summer.

Another activity I planned to re-start is podcasting. People had started to follow The Argentina Experience when I took ill. Nothing serious, but I did not have the strength to continue recording and editing. I love making podcasts, so I plan to record again in the next few weeks.

Last, I will take my driver’s license. Although I’m “old” to get it, I did not have the time to do it earlier. Since I’m a nervous driver – I can drive a motorcycle, but I’m afraid of surpassing cars – this will be fun.

My key point is: it’s fundamental you do something you like and that can allow you to pass time.

What next?

The next step the University is taking is to announce further information at the end of June. My hope is to have a clearer view of what next year will look like.

Those who have been following me know I speak openly about my concerns and thoughts. If lectures are online and they require my presence for tutorials and labs, I will talk to my tutor to arrange a solution. For mental health reasons, I can’t stay inside for days and go out just for three to four hours a week. I know myself and I am sure I will not go out of the house if I don’t have to attend lectures. You see where this leads me to.

I can’t say the outcome of this discussion is not stressful. It worries me a lot and it’s almost a constant thought, but I am slowly learning to deal with it. In the meantime, I will focus on my hobbies and my home life. I advise you to do the same: if you’re waiting for a decision from your university, concentrate on other aspects of your life. It’s tough, but you will get better at it with time. This moment in history is the best to learn how to deal with hardship.

I hope you got how my undergraduate studies have changed since the last article I wrote about it. Everything is still uncertain, but I have learned how to better deal with my anxiety. If you are a control freak like me, you had to shift your perspective throughout the months and became more aware the reality we live in does not allow planning.

Let me know how your attitude towards your studies changed. Don’t worry too much about the future, just focus on how to enjoy the summer months and begin hobbies you can take along the journey to your degree.

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