In this third lockdown trying to continue with your studies may feel a tough challenge. When the first lockdown happened last year in March I was finishing my master’s at Newman and as my course ended in August, the last 5 months of the degree were left to me but with vital digital support from lecturers and my supervisor. I offer this short blog to outline a few suggestions from my experience last year and how I am trying to reapply these ideas again now in my work in outreach for Newman University.
Before I start though I say from the outset that there is no one size fits all approach to learning and adapting to challenges. These words are suggestions and I encourage you to challenge them, apply them and alter them to find your unique solutions. What lockdown and the pandemic has proven is that we need to trust ourselves and build collaboration between each other. Let us begin now with the first suggestion:
Tip 1: Distant and digital learning.
The biggest challenge is adapting to learning when it is through digital contact. First and foremost, if you need support with gaining access to digital technology I would say get in touch with supervisors, lecturers and student support to explain your position and see how it can be resolved. However, just having technology is not the final point, it is how we engage with it and the kind of learning we get. My best advice is to attend lectures and go in with the same attitude you would for in-person lectures. Your intention for joining onto that online lecture is the riverbed and your engagement and learning is the water you fill it with.
Also, if you can it is worth finding a space to learn and to study that you can attach a meaning of ‘work mode’ to. It does not have to be a desk just somewhere that you feel can be a workspace and where you have good posture and space. However, ‘work mode’ will always have ‘everyday life mode’ intervene. These interventions are fine and each of us will have our own unique situations. Communicating these situations to fellow students and lecturers and planning around them will always be best, as last year being at home more, yet not seeing loved ones helped grow a new perspective in me that doing them proud was my main motivation for carrying on.
Tip 2: Crafting your goals and motivation.
Tip 2 expands further on how to keep motivated. I will outline the importance of setting goals both short term and in the long term. Our motivation comes from both our external situations like family, friends, children or lecturers. But motivation will also come from inside you. With all the changes caused by covid-19 such as issues of accommodation maybe, distance from people and less access to resources, finding your motivation may falter. Your motivation may falter several times like it did for me. Yet, if you can set a long-term goal for your work it gives you a target, a destination and a focus.
Keeping the goal specific is key too to pin it down, which may be: you want to complete a module, your dissertation or it may be one essay that you have had to re-sit. When you have that goal in mind it is useful to work backwards so you can plot out necessary steps you need to take on the path to get to the goal. Do you need to do a draft? Do you need to do library searches? Always keep active with this and be open to your goals changing as they may if circumstances change. With any goal you make, whether it is short term or long term, it is key to reflect on them regularly and see if it still is what you are aiming for.
Tip 3: Keeping healthy.
The last tip is one that has many layers to it and again is unique to you. It is keeping healthy during this time of distance and digital living. Health is neither just your mental or physical health; both are connected as you are a whole and each impacts the other. I know from experience what persistent working does and I struggled last year trying to find a balance. Sometimes you need to focus on your work but never forget to take time for you and do something you enjoy as novelty and enjoyment give you energy.
I still get days when I go: ‘No I do not want to rest, ‘I need to keep working to prove I am capable’ or ‘I am too tired to do anything else’. It is only going through last year’s lockdown as a student that made me realise it is the ‘I’ that crops up in those above statements that was in fact my dismissive self, a limited self that is not really who I am. You may have this voice too and it causes you to not do things or become dismissive of those around you. Always know though that being a student is about adapting and developing who you are. Keeping healthy by trying new things, being aware of that voice in your head and enjoying each day as much as possible is part of your student experience.