Top tips on being a student in a pandemic

Once again we find ourselves in lockdown which means for many of us we won’t be going back to university until at least mid-February. Of course this can make many things a lot harder; living situations, accessing course materials, online learning. To help you get through it I’m going to be doing a series of posts on these different topics to hopefully help you be a bit more productive and a bit less stressed. Of course these are things that work for me, they won’t work for everyone, but if you’re feeling a bit lost you might as well give them a try.

At the moment I am living at home after returning for the Christmas break and attempting to get my work done. I’ve been trying to put little things in place to help myself stay productive but it’s always important to remember that these are very strange times. It’s important to remember that you may not feel as encouraged at the moment, don’t beat yourself up about this because it’s only natural to feel a bit of a strain on your work at the moment.

With working on my dissertation, assignments, seminars and reading there’s a lot to be doing and it can be nice to have something to focus on at the moment. However, the importance of taking a break is a big as ever. Go for a walk, watch a bit of Netflix, call a friend, make sure you’re doing things to relax yourself so that you can feel that bit more fresh and ready to go.

Give yourself a break when you need it

As reading week draws to a close, I must say I’ve been glad for the break. For me this marks half way through the first term and has given me the chance to catch up on work but also to have a relax which is always important. Especially with the second lockdown stress levels are high and so it’s vital to make sure you look after yourself

Of course university work is important but so is your mental health, in fact the latter is more important. Understanding what you need to ensure you feel good is something you should explore. Working yourself out to find that balance between getting work done and looking after yourself is always a good idea. Maybe you work a certain amount of hours in the day and give yourself a break in the evening or you focus strongly on work in the week to give yourself time at the weekend for yourself. It’s all about finding what’s best for you.

You should never feel guilty for having a break. Even if you feel you haven’t been working at your best lately don’t punish yourself by pushing your mind and body to breaking point. It can be difficult when you have so many things on and so many deadlines looming to just take a step back and give yourself the space you need to get back on track. The way I see it if I allow myself a break I will be more productive when I get back to working as I have refreshed myself and my mind is not running at a million miles an hour.

The perfect way to give yourself this time away from your studies would be to do something away from your work space. Even if you just move to a different room to watch some Netflix or read a book you’re resetting yourself to get back into work. A good way to relieve stress is through exercise, whether that’s at home or outside, do what feels right for you. Maybe go on a walk and get some fresh air, let your mind wonder, ask those you live with to join you and just have a nice chat. Call or message a friend or family member you haven’t spoken to in a while for a catch up. These things not only give you that break you need but give you something else that hopefully will add to your happiness. But also if you just feel like doing absolutely nothing for a little while that’s fine too, find what feels good for you.

My biggest piece of advice is not to wait until you feel desperate for a break, give yourself time off so you don’t get to a point of burnout. Make sure to look after yourself especially in this pandemic and now that England has gone into a second lockdown. Remember there are people there for you if you need them, treat yourself right and remember whatever you are feeling you’re not alone.

Socialising in a pandemic

Social distancing and 10 pm curfews are becoming a big part of our lives. While it’s important to adhere to the government guidelines it can feel like they are getting in the way of you having fun at university. I’m here to tell you that this doesn’t have to be the case, there are so many things you can still do to enjoy your time at university and spend time with friends.

Go out for food – whether this is breakfast, lunch, dinner or even brunch there are so many places you can try. Me and my housemates have decided to go for dinner once a month. It gives you a great opportunity to sit down, catch up and have some great food. Maybe there’s somewhere you’ve always wanted to go or a cuisine you’ve always wanted to taste. Try it out, the best part is you don’t have to wash up afterwards.

Have a movie night – rather than going out why not have a cosy night in. Especially as it’s getting colder and the days shorter it can be so much nicer not to leave the house in the evening. Snuggle up with a hot drink and a movie. Maybe even bake some snacks to enjoy as a daytime activity.

Go for a drink or have some drinks at home – yes, if you go out for a drink your night will be cut short but you can still enjoy it. If you don’t fancy that you could just host drinks at home, sticking to the government guidelines of course. It’s a great way to make a night in just a bit more exciting.

Have a games night – get your housemates together for some fun. Whether you play board games or go for a drinking game, it’s a great way to spend an evening.

Bake or cook – make yourself a tasty treat or get your housemates together to make a house dinner. These are such fun activities and then at the end you get to eat what you have created which makes it even better. You could even learn to cook something new or try a friend’s favourite dish just to mix things up a bit.

Take a day trip – within reason of course but there are some great places you can still visit. I recently went to the Victoria and Albert museum and it was a great day out. You did have to book a time slot but it was still free, just means people could adhere to social distancing.

There are so many things that you can do to enjoy your university experience. Most of these things you can do in your own home with the people you live with which is a good option at times like this. Remember to stick to the restrictions put in place by the government but still try and make the most of your university experience.

20 things I learnt before turning 20

As I celebrate my 20th birthday I find it important to look back and realise what I’ve learnt from life up to this point. As I leave behind my teenage years and enter a new decade of my life, I want to reflect on my experiences up to now and how they’ve helped me to grow. In doing so, it also helps me to remember I have much to learn and to go into my twenties ready for new challenges. Because I’m going to explain what I mean by each point, this is going to be a long post so grab a cup of tea and a biscuit and dive in.

  1. The importance of me time: I feel like I’ve definitely spoken about this on my blog before but that’s only because I feel it is so important. For so long, I would fill all my time wanting to keep busy but all this time I was neglecting my need for time alone. Don’t get me wrong I love to see friends and family and often start to feel lonely when I haven’t had contact for a while. However, I’ve learnt to embrace the time when I’m not surrounded by people and if I have a busy schedule I make time to have a bit of self-care.
  2. People will change and that’s okay: this includes you. Change can be scary but it’s important to embrace it as it can often be for the best. Even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time things can work out in the end. It may be a blessing in disguise.
  3. You really do live and learn: I’ve heard this saying so many times and as cliché as it sounds it’s very much true. Most people are just learning as they go along. Even if you feel overwhelmed by the future just remember you’ll learn as you grow and things will begin to fall into place. This leads me nicely into my next point.
  4. Own up to your mistakes and learn from them: It can be scary realising you’ve made mistakes and admitting to them. This however, is the only way you can learn and begin to improve yourself. Also, in facing them straight on will allow for others for forgive you, if what you have done has impacted others in some way.
  5. 18 may be legally an adult but it doesn’t feel like it: I may have been an adult legally for the past two years but there’s so many points of adulthood that I am yet to learn. There are experiences that I haven’t yet had or issues I haven’t yet worked out how to resolve but I am slowly learning. You don’t just learn how to be an adult over night.
  6. You won’t do everything first try: It can be so easy to think something is too difficult and give up after failing first try but you won’t learn if you don’t persevere. I recently attempted to put up shelves for the first time (which was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be) and I just couldn’t get it right. In the end I asked for some help but I still worked through it and now I’ve learnt how to do it for next time.
  7. Not only is it okay to ask for help but it’s important: This has so much scope. It relates to my previous point about how you may think something should be easy and it would be embarrassing to ask for help. Most of the time people will be happy to help and won’t care if they think it’s easy, people are different. Not only this, but if you’re struggling with say mental health, it is vital to open up and look for help.
  8. Other people will go through the same things you will, you just may not know it: You may feel alone in your struggles at times but often you won’t be the only one experiencing it. I’ve found that by opening up to friends about things we can often relate and feel less alone. And even if they personally haven’t been through it, they may know someone who has or offer advice on how to get through it while being there for you.
  9. How to live independently: Going to university has eased me into living alone. I have that security that I will be going home in the holidays while navigating independent living during term time. Like I said earlier about living and learning you’ll work this out as you go along. Yes, it can be daunting at first but if you’re at uni most people will be in the same position and you can get through it together.
  10. Things can be harder than they seem and vice versa: A lot of the time you could be dreading doing something thinking it will be too difficult when it really isn’t. The best way to navigate this is to wait and see. As the saying goes; cross that bridge when you come to it. Even if something is a lot more difficult than you perceived it to be you can work through it, don’t let yourself be put off by that.
  11. Make the most of your time with friends and family: I don’t mean this in a morbid way but going off to university changed the dynamic of when I see people. The friends that I saw everyday at school and my family who I permanently lived with suddenly became people I would only really see in the holidays or if I visited for a weekend. My university friends became people I live with and then don’t see when I go home. I try not to take advantage of the time spent with people and enjoy the memories we make.
  12. Growing up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be: I remember being a young teenager looking up to people in their late teens thinking they were so grown up. Now I’m at that age I don’t feel that way at all. It’s strange how we perceive the years ahead without truly knowing what’s going on.
  13. You can’t know everything: when I was younger in school I loved the thought of discovering and learning new things and I still do now. The only difference is now there’s so much more to the world than I really realised and I can’t learn things fast enough. I find it important to accept there will be conversations where I won’t have an opinion because I don’t know enough on a topic but I hope from understanding the stories and opinions of others I can learn new things.
  14. You’ll have bad days, the important thing is learning to embrace the good days: So often it is easy to dwell on the bad days and thing what went wrong or what could have gone better. Instead, I like to look at the good days and treasure the memories.
  15. You won’t look stupid admitting you don’t know something: I personally feel it’s better to admit you don’t know something so that you can be informed. You’ll probably look even more silly talking on a topic you don’t know anything about or you don’t fully understand. Personally, I love a chance to learn something new!
  16. It’s important to go at my own pace: For so long I saw life as a race. I felt like I needed to keep up with my peers to be successful in life. However, as I’ve grown up I’ve realised I need to do things at my own pace and it will be worth taking it slow in the end.
  17. I have definitely changed over the years: like I said earlier change can be really good. I like to look back over how I’ve changed and what life events have led me to do so. I have come to the realisation that I’m not the same person I was when I was 16 and that really is a good thing. Looking back at her I’m glad of everything I went through to become who I am today.
  18. I have slowly grown into myself as I navigate life: As I have lived and exited my bubble life, I have learnt to understand myself better and developed as a person.
  19. There is still uncertainty ahead: Though I have learnt so much in my first 20 years, there is still so much to learn. I have no idea where I will be in five years or realistically even a year from now. But, I look forward to finding out.
  20. I’ve had my ups and downs but so far I’ve had a good twenty years!

What university has taught me

Of course, the point of going to university is to learn, be educated and get a degree. However, there is so much you will learn at university that is not academic. Going away to uni can be rewarding for so many reasons and I am here to tell you what university taught me. 

Meeting new people: I had friends before going to university but most of them I met at the start of secondary school if not primary school. From this I clearly knew how to maintain friendships, but it had been years since I actually had to actively pursue meeting new people.  I’m glad I did; I met some of the most amazing people at university and it has really taught me to be more confident in meeting new people. It may seem daunting at first but if you put your best foot forward and really try to meet new people you will be sure to find those who you gel with. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t find your best friends straight away for some people it will take longer than others, but it will be worth it in the end. Also, meeting people from all different backgrounds when I have lived in one place my whole life with the same people, is a really fun experience.

There’s no time limit on life: Before I went to university, I had so many ideas of what I wanted to do at uni but once I arrived these things didn’t always go to plan. I didn’t even join a society until second year but that was okay, it can be overwhelming when you make big changes to your life. For a lot of people moving to uni will be the first time you’ve moved away from home but I’m glad I have that experience as it has given me confidence to make changes in my life and know that when I do I will go at my own pace.  Connected to this is not comparing yourself to other people, people will have different timelines to you and that is okay. Just keep going at your own pace and don’t feel like you have to rush just because other people are doing something.  you’ll be much happier without putting that unnecessary pressure on yourself to do something you either don’t want to do at all or don’t want to do just yet. 

Take time for yourself: Being at university, you have so many opportunities constantly coming at you. Whether that’s work related or socially, it can feel like you need to do everything. You don’t have to force yourself to constantly participate and sometimes it’s important to just take that time for yourself.  People aren’t going to change their opinion of you just because you missed one night out especially when you need it for your own health. This is one of the biggest things I’ve learnt from uni that sometimes you will just want to sit in your room with some snacks and your own company.  This is something I try to do a bit more often as self-care is so important. 

You will make mistakes: This is a really important one when you’re in such new surroundings.  I was so used to my life before university that it was easy, everything was familiar and so I knew what I was doing. University will be a time when you will learn a lot. The way essays are written is completely different to those written at sixth form and so it was very much a learning curve that I had to get used to a new writing style which was difficult seeing that I made mistakes but it’s something you can learn from and you will gradually improve. Not just in an academic capacity though, you are meeting new people, and you may accidentally rub people up the wrong way. Taking responsibility for your actions and owning up to your mistakes is the first step to learning from them. 

Budgeting: I wanted to just put this one in at the end as even though I have written a whole post on this it is one of the most vital lessons I have learned while being at university. So, if this is something you struggle with, go check out my previous blog post all about creating a budget and sticking to it.