There are lots of changes happening right now and with the new academic year just around the corner, most students can expect to return to new measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID. Whilst these changes can be daunting, the pandemic has opened up many peoples’ eyes up to how things can change in an instant around the world and that it is a part of life. Especially in the case of education, everyone (students, teachers, parents/foster carers) experienced the moving of lessons and courses online and adjusted to it. My thinking is that “OK, the world is changing, things are going to be different. I want to take the changes head-on, learn new skills, maintain my education and keep going”. Whilst it will be an adjustment, I think it’s important to find alternative ways to learn.
A lot of the time we are directed about how to physically prepare for returning back to school – what we need to get from WHSmith, what we need in our pencil case, where to get your notebook and backpack. But rarely do we talk about mental preparation.
For many university students, there were hopes that the relaxation of restrictions would mean a return to a sense of normalcy but have found that their studies will largely take place online. Initially, this concerned me as I remembered much of my previous academic year was spent feeling trapped by being in lockdown. However, this time around, I’ve taken all of the necessary precautions to make sure that my learning experience will be fun, enjoyable and that I will be able to benefit a lot from it. Whilst not everyone will be returning to distance learning, a major part of the past year is assessing what was difficult about that time that you can apply to the future should any changes arise to make sure that it is a more manageable and positive experience.
I’m going to share some things that I’ve learnt so far during my experience of school (and now uni!) and what I will look to implement for the new term.
- When learning online, it is important to create a space conducive to a work environment – simply keeping your desk and floor free of clutter can make it feel like somewhere you could be productive every day. If, like me, you don’t have the physical space for a desk or study area in your bedroom – then create an invisible line mentally that divides your bedroom into “this half of the room is for relaxing” and “that half is for studying”. You need to have a way of separating that!
- Write a list of things that you need to do for the first week back – something you can tick off and have for reference. So satisfying!
- Make up a box of all the books and resources you’ll need for the term for easy access
- Understand what you’re getting yourself in for – read through the syllabus and know exactly what you are going to be doing. If you have the time and capabilities to do so, sit down and read about what is required of you. And how much you are going to have to work in order to reach the grades you want to achieve.
- Overall, it’s really important to create a schedule and make sure that you are on time even if it’s just pre-recorded content
- Another thing that I’m doing is maintaining my mental health, making sure that I’m socially interacting and getting out and about rather than keeping myself cooped up in my bedroom. For the majority of the time, I didn’t have any escape from online learning so this time I’m going to have a really good schedule and structure and make sure that when I’m on the laptop, I’m learning. One or two hours. Then close it. Last year, I never closed it. Now, I’m going to take the precautions to prioritise my mental health, as before, I didn’t have a good idea of what I was getting myself into.
- Don’t be afraid to talk about any worries with your parents, teachers, friends or social worker (if you have one). I have a massive group chat with other students who are going through the same thing so I’m connecting with them online to make sure that we keep sharing our experiences and understanding “how are you coping with it?”. Before that, I wasn’t asking anyone else I was just going through it on my own. Why didn’t I just reach out to my classmates? I want to make sure that I’m on top of it because it’s really important.
Lastly, be proud of yourself because embracing those changes is not easy. Especially in this climate. Be yourself and mentally remember this is an experience that’s going to be challenging but you can do this!
By Jess Dobbs, Student