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.

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.

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.

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.

Got your results, now what?

A little throwback; me two years ago after I had my results before I headed off to uni.

The first thing I should say is congratulations! You did it, you got through your A-levels and for that you should be extremely proud. Even if you didn’t get the results you were hoping for, you should still feel proud of such a great achievement to have got to this point. If you need it just take some time to come to terms with what happened yesterday. You may feel inundated with people asking about your results and your future plans, just remember this is personal to you and you really don’t have to discuss what has happened with people. It may be a good idea to talk through your emotions and thoughts with someone you really trust to just get it out there or even try writing it down in a journal if you want to get it out privately.

If you’re off to university, you have so many exciting things ahead. As a student blog, I am going to be discussing university as that’s what I know best. Remember you do still have a good month until term starts at university so even though you can begin to make preparations, you do have time.

The big thing you need to do if you don’t plan on living at home, is sorting out your accommodation, if you haven’t done so already. This is often first come first serve so you really need to get that sorted as a number one priority! Once this is all done you can go on Facebook as they usually have groups you can join to meet people in your accommodation or even your flat. It might seem random but I’d definitely recommend getting Facebook if you’re off to university and haven’t got it already. It’s really useful as so many things at university are advertised on Facebook; info for halls, info on societies, course group chats and club pictures to name just a few.

You have so much to look forward to so spend this time with friends and families. Make the most of the summer before you go. Celebrate your success and have fun!

What to pack for university: stationary

Personally I love stationary, I like my notes to look pretty and organised. There are gong to be essentials, you can choose something basic or if you’re into stationary find bits that will match your aesthetic. Also, different courses will need different resources, personally I do history so that’s what I know best.

Notebooks: Even if you plan to take all your notes on a laptop, I’d have a notebook just in case you need to jot something down or you have technical issues. I personally have separate notebooks for taking notes in lectures and seminars and then for writing up notes neatly. This means when it comes to revising I can study from the notebooks with organised and easy to read notes.

Pens: Seems obvious but you never know when you’ll need a pen. Remember to take a good number of these, you don’t understand how many pens you will misplace. I like to have different colour pens for different modules so I can easily organise my notes and immediately know what’s what.

Highlighters: Especially if you do a subject with lots of reading like me highlighters are a must. Again, I colour-code my highlighters to match my pens. I’d also recommend pencils to underline in borrowed books so these markings can be rubbed out.

Planner: This is honestly a life saver. You can note down your deadline, your commitments and plans to keep on top of everything. I also use mine to make mini to-do lists to keep myself organised.

Folders: These are great for organising your notes and any random sheets you have lying around. I then use dividers in the folders to organise notes into folders.

Hole punch and stapler: Often forgotten but so useful. If you plan to put things in a folder a hole punch is a must have so that things can be organised. and a stapler can keep sheets together so the order doesn’t get muddled.

Packing for university: the kitchen

Packing up and moving into your university flat is a huge task so you don’t want to be taking more than you need.  You really don’t need to take everything but the kitchen sink as you really won’t use everything.  These are of course just my recommendations and there may be things you won’t need and there may even be things that I don’t mention that you may feel for you is an essential. I will do a separate post on the kitchen, bedroom, stationary and miscellaneous, just to keep the posts short and easy to read. This week will be the kitchen so look out for the others in the coming weeks. 

Crockery: I would recommend you only take two of each, you really won’t need a family set of 4 or 5 of each item as you won’t use them. Even if you have guests, you can always borrow from others. Remember you will have limited shelf space and so you really need to take as little as possible. I personally think two is the perfect amount as things are likely to get broken and you will want a spare, I know I definitely broke a lot of crockery.  Also, if you really need to you can always buy replacements while you’re there so keep that in mind. I took bowls, dinner plates, side plates, mugs, glasses and pasta dishes and found that was all I really needed. 

Pots and pans: I would take a few of these if I were you, at least two pots (including one with a lid) and a frying pan but of course it depends on your cooking habits. This would be a minimum for if you do a general amount of cooking. These are very bulky and so will take up a lot of the space in your cupboards so be sensible with this and only take what you know you’re going to use. Think about how many pans you use at a time when you cook at home and use that as an estimate. 

Food preparation: You’ll also need bits for preparing food. I had two chopping boards to avoid cross contamination, so I basically have a meat one and a non-meat one. You may feel you need more or if you don’t use meat you may just be happy with one. These are often easy to store so you don’t really need to worry about having too many.  You may also want to take food storage boxes or freezer bags for if you plan to make food in advance and then freeze it for later but be sensible I had boxes of every size and didn’t even use most of them, they just got in the way.

For the oven: When it comes to baking trays, they won’t take up a lot of room and again I’d recommend two, just for if you have to put things in the oven at different times or you don’t want food mixing on the trays. I did also have a pizza tray and while I could have gotten by without one it was useful and easy to store. You may also want tin foil to protect the trays or to put over food, so I’d recommend just taking a roll of this in case. 

Cutlery: This will go missing I can assure you. I lost so much of my cutlery in first year, so I’d definitely recommend against buying just stainless-steel cutlery.  It looked exactly the same as everyone else’s and so I never knew what was mine. I ended up buying red handled cutlery and this meant I knew exactly which was mine because of the red handles.  I took about six of each; knives, forks, spoons and teaspoons because it meant I had plenty for if they went missing.  I also recommend taking good knives for preparing food; I had a big knife, small knife and bread knife. This worked well and was perfectly enough. Also, there will be extra bits you might forget which you never know when you will need; spatula, fish slice, potato masher, potato peeler, ladle, cooking spoon, scissors and a strainer. 

Baking bits: If you’re into baking then I would recommend taking these but if you barley bake at home the likelihood is that you won’t really use these at university. I didn’t take any of these things and if I really wanted to bake something, I just borrowed from someone else as this was just on the rare occasion. Now that I’ve got more into baking, I may purchase some bits for third year but as with everything else on this list, be sensible and only take what you will actually use.