With the vast majority of UK students studying partly – or completely – away from campus, this year really has seen a university experience like no other, but what lessons have we learned from studying from home?
Lesson 1: The social aspect of learning cannot be underestimated
Its no secret that socialising is one of the key things taken into account when a student makes the decision to go to university. From parties in Fresher’s week and movie nights with your new housemates, to joining societies and attending careers fairs – socialisation is a huge part of the university experience.
But what about the social aspect of the actual learning? There’s nothing quite like sitting with your classmates in a lecture theatre or lab and engaging in an interesting discussion to make you feel like a student in a Hollywood movie, entering the new and exciting world of academia and all the possibilities it holds.
With that in mind, its pretty obvious that the social aspect of university has taken a huge hit this year – but even when studying from home, the social aspect of learning doesn’t have to be lost. My advice? Get as involved as you possibly can. Yes, no one really feels like switching on their camera in the Teams meeting, and no, adding to the discussion thread doesn’t feel the same as bouncing ideas off each other in a crowded seminar room. But when I make myself do these things, do I feel better, more productive and a little closer to the ‘normal’ university life I love so much? Absolutely. It might not be perfect, but make the most of what you have, and you might surprise yourself.
Lesson 2: Making friends from home is easier than you think
One hugely unexpected benefit of studying from home this last semester is the amount of new friends I’ve managed to make, even when I’ve barely seen them in person at all! For many of us, making new friends at university can be daunting, and quite difficult when everyone is rushing off to get to their next class all the time. For that reason, the first two years of my degree were spent with the same lovely, albeit very small, group of people.
But learning online has offered a new opportunity to make friends with new people, bonding over the same less-than-ideal experience and without even noticing any of the things that might previously have divided us. Sometimes, the only thing that gets me through the stresses of my final year is the constant stream of laughs and support from my group chat.
Lesson 3: Remembering your uni really is doing its best
It’s easy to get frustrated when you feel like online learning is just not what you signed up for. But its also important to remember that its not your lecturers’, or even the institutions, fault – its not what they signed up for either! Yes, its far from ideal and no, sometimes it doesn’t feel like university at all, but if you look for them, the vast majority of support systems are still in place. Here’s my advice:
- Make life easy for your lecturers, because teaching from home to a class of blank screens can’t be fun. Switch on your camera and make the effort to join in on discussions!
- Take advantage of all the opportunities you can. An online careers fair might sound boring to begin with, and the waiting list for the counselling service might tempt you to keep putting it off. But guess what? You should do it all anyway. You’ll be one step further along than if you did nothing at all.
Lesson 4: Know how far you’ve come, and ask for help if you need it.
It’s hugely important not to underestimate how well you’re doing. The mental strain of the pandemic is ongoing, so we often forget how much of a toll its taking on us – but its real! And even in spite of it, you’re getting up and carrying on regardless. Talk about adaptability. Don’t panic too much if you feel a little behind or if your marks dip a little – even still showing up is a huge achievement and you should be proud.
That said, if you need help, ask for it. Don’t be too shy to email a tutor if you feel like you don’t get something. Don’t put off signing up to the counselling service because you feel like you don’t need it ‘enough’. Its literally why they’re there. There are also a ton of resources over on Student Minds for you to get your teeth into. Remember you’re not alone.