Studying during COVID-19: Reflections and advice from our students. Blog 5, by Elise Gear (MSc Clinical Psychology)

Studying during COVID-19: Reflections and advice from our students. Blog 5, by Elise Gear (MSc Clinical Psychology)

Studying in a Pandemic

When I applied for an MSc, I never imagined the majority of my assignments would be written from my pink childhood bedroom in my family home, let alone in the middle of a global pandemic. If I were to have somehow known this, would I still have chosen to pursue university studies? In short, and with the benefit of hindsight – yes! Although, I wish my pre-lockdown student self knew some of the things I know now!

1. Stick to a working week schedule (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm): Lectures were cancelled and many of us moved back in with our parents. I personally found it very easy to get caught up in family life (i.e. sibling arguments, watching The Chase, and excessively cuddling my cat!). To compensate for these distractions, I found myself writing assignments at all hours of the day (and night), seven days a week. Before I knew it, weeks had passed, and I hadn’t allowed myself a single day to relax. As a result, I could see that both my writing and wellbeing were suffering. At the recommendation of a friend, I set about timetabling my days, scheduling two days off a week. To make further distinction between study and relaxation time, I spent my down days (generally weekends) going for walks, calling my friends and family, or baking (banana bread, naturally!). This really helped to prevent the days and weeks from blending into one, allowing me to adopt a much healthier work-life balance and to actively enjoy the time I spent studying.

2. Set manageable daily goals: I adore list writing, the satisfaction I gain from ticking items off a to-do list is, rather tragically, second to none. However, at the start of lockdown, with absolutely no commitments other than assignment deadlines, my list making became out of hand. I had begun setting myself unattainable daily targets – the only result being complete bewilderment. Because of this I was either working into the early hours in an attempt to tick off all items (another reason for tip 1.), or heading to bed with an unfinished list, in a bad mood, and subsequently dreaming about failing my assignments. Something had to change. After seeking advice, it became clear I had to reduce my lists to three to four items (contrary to the 10+ I had been writing). Although tricky at first, by setting fewer targets, I was no longer hastily completing tasks. I became more accurate in my writing, saving time I would previously have spent on editing rushed work. Through being more lenient in the expectations I have of myself, my productivity and work satisfaction have greatly improved.

3. Make full use of all available help: Despite having studied at RHUL for years, it took the outbreak of COVID-19 for me to utilise all of the resources available to me – the most helpful being the CeDAS writing tutorials. Whilst usually conducted face to face, tutorials have been moved online, with many of the CeDAS members offering either written or video call feedback. I genuinely cannot fault the guidance provided by CeDAS and I thoroughly recommend every RHUL student makes use of this service. Pandemic or no pandemic, don’t wait until the last two essays of your degree (like me) to benefit from all the support that is available to you!