Now that some time has passed since the beginning of the pandemic, I wanted to update you on how my student life has changed thus far. I waited this long to have a clearer picture of the events and be able to tell you the effects on my course of studies. If you are studying like me, you might find yourself with lots of questions and few answers. In the hope of helping you through this, and any other instance when you feel lost, here is what’s happening and what I’m doing to make the most of my academic life.
A short timeline
But what happened? After the 13th of March, the University suspended all teaching activities, leaving just some specialist labs working on studying the SARS-Cov-2. If you are interested in research, here is a link to what they have done so far. The only reason things are not more complex than they are now, is that lectures would have finished a week later, to resume on the 20th of April after the Easter Holidays. I could only imagine how it would have all turned out, if there hadn’t been time to figure the minutiae of the Summer term.
Just before I started writing, I received an e-mail from the University of Southampton about the details of a so called “Transition Week”. Although most of us were already used to some kind of online learning, some Faculties need to introduce the alternative way to their students. I can’t share the specifics, but what I can tell you is that this short period before the 27th of April is to familiarise with the rest of the term. This will be useful for those who find themselves not knowing how to connect to the different websites and those who are stressed by the upcoming measures.
There is so much more to discuss and I can’t wait to get more information. This period has been tough to deal with on a personal and social level, so I welcome all the news that I can obtain. Anyone like me – a control freak that wants to plan every single aspect of their lives – is finding it difficult to cope with the possibility of not knowing what will happen with the next academic year.
The student’s dilemma
As I already discussed in other articles, I established a routine in the past few weeks. Some days ago, I finished revising the topics we had analysed before Uni closed, so I found myself more idle than before. After printing out a calendar for the following months, I stared at it, writing nothing down. I am now taking a temporary break from my academic duties until the 27th of April arrives. I would lie if I told you that this has not affected me at all. On the first day I realised I had no more obligations regarding my education, I felt a sense of void.
While scrolling on Facebook, I discovered that so many others are in the same situation. Most of us focused on lectures and deadlines, without taking time for ourselves. And when we understood we are much more than our studies, we had to undergo rethinking our lives. It almost seems too dramatic, but you can’t appreciate how this is true for numerous students, myself included. The worst aspect of it is how we can give the impression of not be able to think about anything else. Whenever I attend Student Representative meetings, the most asked questions revolve around deadlines and assessment, even more than the dilemma: how do I regain motivation?
There is no actual answer to this problem and I’m not the best person to give advice on this. The only reason I didn’t freak out already is that I keep myself distracted by a thousand other activities. If I started pondering about all the distinct problems I have to face at the conclusion of the school year, I would end up with no responses and a lot more questions. One of them is the rent of my flat in Southampton. With no idea of how this world situation will unfold, I thought about the different options on the table, but I can’t be definite about what is the winning one.
The quick resolutions
By now, I’ve understood it’s fundamental to find a purpose. Something small, achievable, to do at home. Even though the next academic period is still puzzling me – and it will continue to do so for the time being – I’m doing my best to give it a direction. With the help of some of my friends – Lana and Niki again, is it a surprise? – I started planning a studying strategy.
We have been told that second year is the toughest, so we are organising extra material to share between the three of us. Although it’s early to do it, and we would not have begun this soon in other circumstances, it is something to look forward to. As a general tip for every other student who finds themselves in a similar situation, I would recommend checking the following year’s modules and search for learning resources that can support what’s already offered by the lecturers.
I discovered the use of OneNote. My general study method was to listen to lectures, write comments on the slides given by the lecturer, go home and rewrite everything on different notebooks, adding comments from the recommended textbooks. It may seem a lengthy process – it is – but it has allowed me to achieve excellent results in the semester 1 exams. I was looking for a more efficient technique, as I was spending too much time at my desk. This is where OneNote comes in, which is included in the Office365 license that the University of Southampton provides. For those of you who are not familiar with this app, it is the best choice for taking notes on your computer or tablet. You can create virtual notebooks, where you store not only lecture slides but also type in any extra comment.
The last activity I’m doing is refining my understanding of the human mind. Although I want to focus more on the biological aspects of the brain, the psychological mechanisms behind it have always fascinated me. If you followed my latest posts, you know I love Coursera. Through the Introduction to Psychology course, I am learning some features of the brain that we haven’t touched on in my lectures. I plan on studying further modules afterwards, such as The Addicted Brain. I’d like to get a better education in Data Science, which I will leave for the Summer Holiday.
The last question I want to answer is: how did this pandemic change my undergraduate studies?
For some aspects, it has changed my experience for the worst. I don’t enjoy not being able to discern what’s going on and when I will carry on with my life. Studying in the UK has been my dream since my early teen years, so I experienced disconcert when I realised I would not be back for a while. Not knowing whether teaching resumes in September is perturbing and demotivating.
On the other hand, I’ve learnt how to manage my expectations for the future. Although it’s a tragical situation, there is nothing I can say or do to make it better. The only thing I must do is try to make the most of the time in confinement to enhance my abilities and skills – staying inside – and master my studying method for when lectures start again.
When I’m writing this article, it’s my 36th day in quarantine. The current world situation is changing by every minute and there is nothing else except to wait. For undergraduate students, this is difficult. I know so many people worried about their degrees and how this will affect their chances of getting jobs and places for further education.
Even though it’s not much, I hope that you find in my words some motivation to do something for your studies. It doesn’t have to be an enormous step, but making small ones, such as those I explained before, can make a vast difference in how you perceive this waiting. This is a lesson in patience and understanding for future Noemi and future you. Whenever you feel you are going nowhere, think back on how much we have adapted to change and learnt to deal with spare time. I’m sure you recognise that, amongst all the bad, we can still find something good to work with.