10 Things COVID Has Taught Me
It is said that we grow the most in the face of challenges that push us out of our comfort zone, and I think its safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged all of us. As the first full online semester comes to an end, I thought I’d share some of the things I have learned while living through this pandemic to highlight some of the good things and not so great things about living during the pandemic.
- I love walking to class – enjoy the simple pleasures.
Remember that first time you walked on campus and how it felt like home? I realized how much I miss just being on campus and miss the simple pleasures of walking between classes, holding the door for someone else, waiting in the long line at The Bullring for lunch and grabbing a hot chocolate or coffee from Starbucks with a friend. In this unpredictable time, I learned that enjoying the simple pleasures while living back at home has helped me reduce feeling overwhelmed and to enjoy each day.
- I’m not as organized as I thought I was – prioritization.
Now, this may seem like an obvious skill to have, especially for students no matter if there is a pandemic or not, but I found that by moving back home and having more time to manage, I realize that my priorities have changed. I am now more focused on finding ways to take breaks, connect with friends or excuses to go outside instead of being stuck by the computer all day. Prioritizing school is important, but so is spending time to take care of yourself and connect with friends or family.
- I love being surrounded by other University students – stronger together.
Social interaction and connections are one of the best parts of life and through this pandemic a lot of our social interactions have been, well... nonexistent. I've found it hard to be away from other University students who understand the struggle of classes, grades and the general ambition to enjoy University life while still doing well in school. We are built up by each other and often find comfort when others are struggling with us. Now, instead of being the last few students in the library waiting for the 2 am alarm, we’re sitting alone in our rooms wondering if others are having the same struggle. Instead, I stay connected with my friends by video chatting and having a zoom ‘study session’ where we work on our respective tasks but are still together, like we would be in the library.
- I appreciate online learning as a tool, but not for the entirety of school – technology sucks.
As much as I enjoy having all of my classes in one, easily accessible place, I do not like using my computer all day, everyday. I thoroughly enjoy the flexibility of online classes, but normally I would only take one or two classes offered online to help balance out the classes I’d be going to in person. I appreciate all of the hard work most professors have done to create online videos, lectures and additional online resources to aid in our learning, but I like using technology as a tool instead of replacing school entirely. Having everything online makes the learning a lot more self directed and sometimes hard to access. I had never used Zoom or Microsoft Teams before the pandemic started, so it was a bit of a learning curve for me. I remember being so frustrated because I couldn’t get into my zoom class as my professor had restricted the entry to only those who log on with their U of G account. I had no idea that I even had a Zoom account with my U of G account let alone how to access it! Eventually I figured out how to make my Zoom account, but that barrier caused me to miss half of the class and left me feeling more alone because I couldn’t ask a fellow student how to fix it.
- Motivation is HARD! – take things one at a time.
This is probably my biggest learning point. I have always been able to find goals or things I want to pursue and still be motivated to complete my schoolwork, even if I didn’t entirely enjoy the class. Yet, through the pandemic my motivation has decreased drastically. I found myself second guessing my education choices and the motivation behind completing a degree. To be honest, without the support of my family and friends I don’t know if I would have completed this semester. Throughout the semester I would feel overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do and disappointed when all of my hard work did not pay off as I expected it to. By taking a step back to see the bigger picture including the value of my degree and the education I am pursuing, I have found it easier to feel motivated. Taking things one assignment, class or issue at a time has helped me feel motivated to get each task done and feel better about the work I completed.
- Technology will never replace face-to-face interaction – flexibility.
I don’t know about you, but living in the country does not offer the best internet service. I have joined many breakout rooms where my fellow Zoom-mates couldn’t hear what I was saying because there was such a big lag, or it just cut out completely. Often this left me unable to share as much as I normally would and, sometimes, I would even miss what they said because it cut out. This made group work challenging and, in my opinion, makes interactions feel less personable. Being able to be in the same physical space as other people is so much more personable and easier to communicate through both non-verbal and verbal cues. That being said, we have adapted beautifully to the limitations of physical distancing to try and mirror a physical interaction with video conferencing and there are some pretty creative ways to encourage discussion and participation online too!
- Taking breaks are important – time management.
It can be so easy to lose track of time and spend hours on one paper or one textbook reading and I have learned that in order to be even more productive I need to take breaks. Not long breaks, but a break that includes changing your focus for a few minutes. Being able to manage my time by setting time frames to complete a reading or assignment has allowed me to complete tasks on time and still have time to do other things, like new hobbies I picked up in quarantine. A general rule I like to follow is that for every 1-2 hours of work I take a 10-20-minute break. This break could be a short walk outside with my dog, jamming out to music, checking in with my grandparents who live with me, grabbing a snack or cleaning up part of my room.
- Space can change everything – working in your room vs. a library & setting boundaries.
I didn’t realize how much of a slacker I was when I worked in my room until I tried to read through one chapter of a textbook, and it took me hours! I have learned that having a space to work that I do not associate with relaxation or get distracted by other objects is important to have. I have found that sitting in my family’s office or in our living room where there is lots of natural light has allowed me to be more productive and stay focused. On top of where you are working, setting boundaries with your housemates or family members about when you are doing schoolwork is just as important. Normally my family is very open and willing to help each other out, but I have found that they often interrupt me when I am in the groove of working or am writing a quiz. Setting these boundaries are necessary to ensure everyone is on the same page and provides peace of mind that I can successfully finish my tasks to the best of my abilities.
- I love being busy – rest allows for reflection and evaluation of goals.
Being busy can sometimes be overwhelming but I have learned through the however many months of quarantine, that I do not like having nothing to do. I enjoy having something to work on or work towards and when I have nothing to do, I mostly just sleep. On the other hand, having a break allowed me to reflect on the year I had, the wonderful memories I made, and my goals to better suit what I want to do in the future. In addition, I was able to get back into doing some of the other things I enjoyed doing outside of school too.
- Life can change at any minute – for better or for worse, you will get through this.
My final point is one I think can apply to everyone. I realize how much our lives can change and how most of the time these changes will be out of our control. Life can change at any minute, one minute were all on campus enjoying the warmer weather as the snow melts, the next were locked down and isolated. The experiences one person may have might not be the same experiences another person has, and our daily routines will change with the situation we live in, BUT no matter what, life will go on and you will get through this.
I hope some of these reflection points have resonated with you and I encourage you to take some time (between study breaks of course) to reflect on the things that the COVID-19 pandemic experience has taught you. Maybe even share your thoughts with others over the holiday season. In summary, I believe we are more flexible and resilient than we originally thought. More importantly, you can do this and you’re not alone!
“But I’ve brought a big bat.
I’m all ready, you see.
Now my troubles are going
To have troubles with me!”
- - Dr. Seuss (I had trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew)