Back to Education: A new study experience

Thoughts

This photo if of a fresh faced, nervous and excited me from my first day at university, it crazy to think that was over a year ago.

It’s coming up to my third week back at university, and students at school have been back for a number of weeks now. Being ‘back’ has brought with it a whole new experience of online meetings, prerecorded lectures and wiping down your place at each in person seminar. Its, well, bizarre.

I hesitate to call this post ‘back to uni’ or ‘back to school’ because, for the most part, we aren’t in the buildings of University. We are, like most students around the world, sat on our laptops trying to figure out the technology for us to continue learning. A select few want to show their face, some professors urge it. Some dragging their laptops to their beds for their 9ams, maybe pleased that they didn’t have to wake up earlier (there are pros and cons to online learning!). I don’t think Microsoft Teams or Zoom has ever had to work so hard. We also have what they are calling ‘hybrid learning’ at RHUL, that is a mix of online and in person seminars and lectures.

But even in person, the experience feels completely impersonal.

Some are online, their faces on the big screen in front of us, the seminar leader at the front in a mask wandering if the people online can hear them, looking at us, a group of four socially distanced likewise geared up in masks covering our expressions. Small group work is impossible for fear of breaking the distancing rules. People unsure of how to have a conversation with people they can’t see. The wifi lagging and people rapidly typing their responses in the chat section of the screen. Must try and get in there first before the conversation has moved on. Wait! I have a question. Furiously typing on the keyboard within their isolated walls.

It’s strange these times – we know these measures are there for a purpose but after a year in which there were strikes and a freshers year cut short by covid, my second year and my university experience seems to be flashing before my eyes. The experience I was expecting slipping from my grasp. I think it was Shakespeare who said that expectation is the enemy of happiness, we should be embracing the changes that come our way.

So how can make the most of it?

  1. Try meeting up in small groups – your own little seminars. It helps bring a little more motivation to studying with a less structured schedule. This makes a nice Segway for the next point…

2. Make a schedule/ timetable. Lectures are often prerecorded and we are told tasks are to be completed ‘in your own time’ which means more to fit in yourself. Organising yourself by planning your days more specifically can really help make the work more manageable and can help motivation more too.

3. Go to a park or somewhere outdoors when it’s nice to study. Being stuck in doors all the time can make studying more boring than it needs to be, by getting outside, listening to an audiobook or sitting on a bench to do some work can mix things up a bit. Additionally, fresh air may give you that extra dose of inspiration that you need to write that essay.

Good luck with your studies this year, whether it’s school or Uni or going back to work, life is a journey that throws hurdles at us from time to time. Uni life might not be the same but that doesn’t mean we have to dismiss this year – we can make the best of it.