3 Lessons I Learned Starting University During ‘These Uncertain Times’
Starting university can be confusing and scary at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. Many students, including myself, have found themselves feeling nervous and confused. Here are 3 lessons I’ve learned to make that transition just a little bit smoother:
1. Find a time management strategy that works for you (the earlier in the semester, the better!).
A big challenge entering university with remote learning is maintaining effective time management. The combination I’ve found effective is a) decreasing easy access to distractions and b) working with realistic time intervals. The biggest distraction that I have is my phone. In order to reduce the probability of me using my phone when I have to work, I turn my phone completely off, and put it in another room. If you have a hard time with this, I recommend giving it to someone like a sibling or a parent, and asking them to keep it until you’re done your work. You’ll thank yourself later!
Working with time intervals that are realistic has helped me a lot. I used to plan unrealistically long study sessions, thinking I would get copious amounts of work done, but nearly every time, I would just lose my focus and interest, or I’d get too tired to genuinely take in what I was learning. Overtime, the study interval method that has worked best for me is the Pomodoro Technique. To summarize, basically work intensively on what you’re doing for 25 minutes, then take a small break. Repeat this 4 times, and then take a large break. Repeat this until your work is done!
2. Be intentional in keeping in touch with professors, teaching assistants, and peers.
How can we get the fullest university experience possible, given the remote-ness of it all?
It may sound obvious, but I’m learning that starting (and maintaining) meaningful connections with folks in your program and classes is critical. Be sure to know who your professors and teaching assistants are, so you can contact them if you have questions and take advantage of their virtual office hours. You can develop a deeper understanding of the subject and get your foot in the door for an academic reference later on. As they are busy people, try to get to know upper years at your school or program. They’ve been in your shoes already and might know how you feel right now.
Making friends may be difficult as everything is online now, but there are still many ways to connect with people that will help make your academic journey a bit more fun. Attend school events (even if they’re online), and connect on social media. Online or socially distanced clubs and extracurriculars in and out of school are a great way to find friends with similar interests in a new environment.
3. Be kind to yourself
The last lesson is to simply be kind to yourself. The sudden switch to remote learning in the midst of a pandemic is not an easy switch to handle. Keep in mind that it’s completely normal to feel a little (or very!) lost, confused, and overwhelmed right now. The last thing anyone needs to worry about during a public health crisis is whether they’re missing some secret assignment hidden in a random module on the class website, but here we are anyways.
The best piece of advice I’ve received from an upper year student, is to focus on your own path. It’s nice to keep communications going with other students for help, but constantly worrying about where everyone else is workload-wise, can quickly progress away from helpful and lean towards toxicity. A tip I’ve used is to take a day to sit down, look through every syllabi and add every assignment, event, and date on to an online planner. Use those due dates to schedule your workload wisely. As long as you focus on working through your schedule, it shouldn’t matter where everyone else is. Make sure to take care of your physical and mental health as well. Stay active, drink water, and take screen breaks.
However you decide to cope with or manage your university transition amidst a global pandemic, just know that you’re doing exactly what you need to be doing right now.