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.

I’m back

So the last time I posted was back in November, though it seems like no time, it’s been over a month. As much as I love doing my blog and engaging with those who read it, being back at university means I’ve been very busy.

However, I first set up my blog because I love writing and sharing my thoughts as a hobby. It is something I enjoy doing and so I really want to get back into doing it as something to help me take a break from university work.

Being in third year there is definitely a lot more to focus on than previous years but of course it’s always important to find things you can use as a way to relax. So, I’m going to get back into sharing my thoughts and feelings about university life with you all.

Hopefully you’ll all be seeing a bit more of me on my blog in the coming month and I very much look forward to getting back into my writing.

Organising my life

I know I’ve definitely spoken on here about how much I love my planner in keeping me organised. Since I got one for Christmas last year I’ve used it so much and already put one on my list for this year. But being in third year I’ve found the need to keep organised so much more important; there always seems to be so much to do and it’s almost difficult to keep up. If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ve probably noticed I haven’t been posting as much lately but hopefully over the coming weeks I can begin to become more organised so that I can get more things done.

Now that I’ve started third year there seems to be so much to think about. To think that I used to think that third year was just the dissertation, I also have to focus on my other modules and meet those deadlines. Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about after university, applying for grad schemes in the hope I’ll have something secure when I graduate. With all these things to think about even before taking time to relax and getting involved with extra-curricular activities, it’s vital to stay organised.

The important thing is to realise is that it’s important to prioritise the upcoming deadlines without neglecting further deadlines. While it’s necessary to complete essays due in before Christmas I’ve still been working on my dissertation without bringing that forward as the priority at the moment.

With that in mind I like to ensure that I have all my deadlines written down with little reminders in the few weeks before. By working out how long things will take I can ensure that I factor enough time for each thing into my plans so as to not fall behind.

Thankfully I’ve lately had enough time to do everything I need to but hopefully I can work on being more organised so I have more time for the things I enjoy.

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.

Book Review: Saltwater by Jessica Andrews

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What it’s about- it follows the life of Lucy who has moved to university in London from Sunderland. She struggles to fit in to the new environment, working long shifts to make ends meet. She leaves for Ireland to find who she really is.

What I thought – while it was written in a poetic way, which I liked, the story was very difficult to keep up with. There were times when it seemed to flow beautifully but then it would suddenly jump to something else, maybe a different time, which just didn’t work for me. It made it hard to know where the story was going and there were some passages that just completely confused me. I personally liked the writing style it made the passages flow and rather than being written in chapters it was written in short passages as though it was a group of poems that linked together.

Would I recommend – I feel it is a book for people with a specific taste. If you love poetry this could perfect for you as I feel it’s the sort of book you need to really read into to understand what is happening.

My favourite lunches at the moment

It can often feel that at university the days are busy. This can mean that making lunch needs to be quick, that’s why I’ve decided to give you my favourite quick ideas. I love a warm lunch so these aren’t the best for a packed lunch but with most things being online there’s less of a need for those. I may do a packed lunch ideas post some time soon, for some inspiration.

Omelette – I made my first omelette a few weeks ago and I’m already in love with them. It’s such an easy thing to make, all you really need is eggs and you’re good to go. You may also want some salt and pepper and as you get more confident making them you can add some toppings. I used ham and mushrooms the other day and it was just yummy.

Hummus – there are so many flavours of hummus to try, my favourite has to be red pepper but I do always love an original flavour. I serve mine with carrot sticks and toasted pitta bread to dip in. It’s so easy to make you could even prepare the carrots in advance so you can quickly put everything together at lunch time.

Soup – soup has so many flavours so you can really mix this one up. Whether you make it yourself or use a shop bought one that’s up to you. My favourite is definitely tomato soup and I have it with a warm bread roll to fill me up a bit more. I do sometimes use sliced bread instead but there’s nothing like bread from the oven.

Pancakes – occasionally I love to treat myself to some good old pancakes. Whether they’re the American style or crepes I just love them. There’s so many toppings to choose from, at the moment I’m loving Biscoff spread on mine.

And there we had it my top four lunches for when I need something quick and easy. Plus they can all be done on a student budget.

Finding your feet

Most people are back to university and settling back in but this may not be true of everyone. Not everyone will find their feet as soon as they move to university; whether that’s settling in to first year or adjusting to the new year. Just remember these things take time and you don’t need to worry about accomplishing everything in your first day.

It can be important to just take your time to get used to the new surrounding especially as you would have most likely been stuck in one place for six months due to lockdown. Even if you are moving back to the same university you may be living somewhere else or you may be used to living at home making it just a little harder to get settled. My best advice would be to have things with you at university that make it feel more homely or remind you of home. Whether this is pictures, blankets or fairy lights it’s nice to surround yourself with cosy things.

Another issue you might have moving to university is making friends. Especially with the pandemic and limits on socialising it can be difficult to find new people. Even with this you can get to know the people in your flat or join a society to meet people. I know my university is not doing a fresher’s fair this year but all the information on joining societies should be online and easy to find. Not only will this allow you to meet new people but it can teach you a new skill or allow you to continue with something you love.

Just remember you have time to do things. You don’t need to do everything at once at university, just take you time and things will fall into place. Sometimes you just have to be a bit proactive to get what you want and university is the perfect place to get involved or discover something new.

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.

How I use a planner

Using a planner can be so beneficial when you are trying to organise your life. Especially as a university student, it can be useful to make sure you meet all your deadlines and are able to keep to your commitments. I’m going to talk through how I use mine but just remember this may not work for you. Just experiment with it all until you find what works for you.

The first thing you need to do is purchase a planner. I got a Papier planner from my parent for Christmas so that is the one I use. It is on the pricey side, though I do see it as an investment as I use mine everyday. You can however get them a lot cheaper so look out for one at you local stationary store or super market.

Once I have my planner I go through and insert any solid plans or deadlines I have. These are things that can’t be changed and so I need to plan around those things. This could be lectures, assignment deadlines or meeting friends.

It is a good idea to put in reminders for upcoming deadlines a week or two in advance so if you haven’t looked ahead it doesn’t jump up on you if you’ve forgotten.

If I want to add anything to my to-do list at this point then I do. This would be things like a few days before a deadline I’ll add check it over and submit it to my list.

Otherwise, I plan each of my weeks on the Sunday before. I go through and write a to-do list for each day. For Sundays it’s always the same, I plan for the next week and do any tasks not done earlier in the week, this means if I need a rest day I can catch up on Sunday and if not I have Sunday off. Do be aware when making to-do lists not to over exert yourself, I’d rather add things later in the week than have incomplete tasks as this makes me feel unmotivated that I was unable to complete them.

I also put in my exercise days so I know when to have rest days and I can work this around my other commitments. At present I don’t plan my meals but this is something I might try when I’m back at uni.

Living alone for the first time

If you’re moving away to university, this may be the first time you’ve ever lived alone. Though the idea of being completely independent can be exciting, it can also be very daunting. I hope this post will give you some peace of mind with your worries and gives some top tips of how to settle in well.

The big thing to remember is that some people will take longer to get used to the new way of living than others which is okay. Please don’t beat yourself up if you feel like it’s taking you more time to get settled. This is a big step in your life and often new things and big changes can be more of a struggle for some individuals. Not only this, but there will be others who are struggling that can hide it so well. If you feel like you’re looking at others like ‘I wish I could deal with change like that’, they may be feeling exactly the same as you. You can always share your thoughts with others and maybe they will relate and you can get through it together.

Not everything will come naturally when you first start out; whether that’s cooking or laundry or just a bit of everything. Everyone will be having struggles and the best thing to do is to help each other out, it’s also a great way to bond with your new found friends. There is always the option of just calling home, which I did a lot in my first year. I had so many random questions especially about cooking.

Home sickness is a thing. I’ll be honest I was so caught up in university life that I didn’t feel this at all until a few weeks in. If you feel this way, call your family, FaceTime your friends. Especially if all your home friends have moved away to their own university they may need that reassurance from you too but do remember they’ll be doing their own thing. Remember different people will settle in, in different ways so be patient with them if they are getting more involved at university. Find times you are both free and have a good catch up then.

Don’t stretch yourself too much. Don’t put pressure on yourself to do everything at once if that’s too much for you. If settling in means you live off oven food and beans on toast for the first few weeks, you do you while you’re getting yourself sorted. As you get used to the new way of life you can step things up and learn new things as you go.

No matter what be proud of yourself, it’s a very big step. Not only are you suddenly living on your own, you’re in a new city and you’re having to get used to the university lifestyle.