Studying from your childhood bedroom needn’t be as bad as you think.
Given the global situation this year, the announcement that a large portion of learning would take place online this semester was hardly a surprise – but that doesn’t mean it didn’t knock me for six when it came. As a home student, I already spent a lot of time away from campus in normal circumstances, so the realisation that my bed was also to become my lecture hall was a jolt to say the least. Questions swimming and anxieties racing, I found myself fretting over my utter lack of productivity these past months in preparation for studying from home. What’s to stop me from napping my way through the remainder of my degree?
This time last year, I would have been ecstatic at the thought of waking up five minutes before my lecture to jump on Zoom without even having to roll out of bed. Now, after a long and unexpected isolation vacation, I’ve begun harbouring grave expectations about what’s next. My final year as an undergrad student is looming overhead, and the shape of the beast is unidentified. The thought of having to study from home has sent me into a spin. Luckily, the unprecedented level of free time I’ve had has got me thinking about the benefits of staying home for the semester.
Somewhat paradoxically, there is a notion that the student whose family home is closest to the university, geographically, may well be the most isolated in study and social support. As for students living in and around campus, social and educational relationships are bound to prosper through meeting flatmates and sharing halls. The collective input from each student is gathered and disseminated between them: from accommodation advice to which bar does the cheapest pint of Big Juicy. Thus, the on campus experience fosters a safety net of necessary social connections from which to grow relationships and stay up-to-date on events and opportunities to widen support circles. As a home student, I’m certain I would have struggled to make friends if it weren’t for the physical connections made in lectures and seminars.
Therefore, the prospect of a new year stripped of its communal nature barely bears thinking about. Questions have arisen in my mind such as, “Who do I complain to about my impending deadline when I’m unable to spend a student-loan-fleecing-vending-machine-fuelled-cramming-sesh with my mates at the library if they aren’t in the country?”; “Which peer does the at-home student freshman turn to for advice when they are too nervous to message their new tutor?”; “How will they make acquaintances at clubs and societies when they haven’t even set foot on university soil?” Also, “Can quidditch be played while social distancing?”
On the other hand, as sad as it seems, when you’re down to the wire with a deadline at your heels, sometimes isolation is a must when it comes to getting things done. If, like me, you can’t be trusted with a “five-minute” (realistically a one hour plus) coffee break with your flatmates, then being a home student has its perks.
Reflecting upon my time spent in isolation has actually helped me list some benefits of home study I’d hitherto undervalued. It seems I have unwittingly implemented real beneficial practices during quarantine that I’m hopeful will help alleviate some of the stressors of university life and online learning. For example, I’ve set out time to exercise each day. Now, I know this won’t float everyone’s boat, but if you have been colouring in or playing music to get a break from your family or flatmates then it might be worthwhile maintaining these habits as part of your daily routine. Rather than eating into your upcoming hectic work schedule, acts of self-care are suggested to boost productivity rather than hinder it.
An additional advantage of being a home student is that it facilitates the possibility of having a pet. Studies have reported that pets positively affect morale and decrease tardiness in the workplace. The latter benefit, thus, providing that vital motivation to carry on over the course of the semester. This probably explains why I have three chihuahuas (who have arguably benefited more from the lockdown than myself).
This period of reflection has also allowed me to appreciate the perks of studying I already possessed as a student staying at home. For one, I have been able to maintain a part-time job throughout my degree without the hassle of having to leave each summer. And now we’re all in the same boat with online learning, we’ll be able to save time and money on the daily commute.
This term will prompt individuals to be creative with how they study. No method of learning works for everybody, so adding another string to your bow for when things go back to normal (fingers crossed) will give current first and second year students study options. For example, working from home as opposed to on campus prompts a level of self-sufficiency and intuition when it comes to studying. It forces you to work things out for yourself without being able to compare and contrast with fellow students, as easily as those in joint accommodation. This promotes a level of confidence in your originality necessary for success in the arts and the discipline vital to problem-solving in the sciences.
As for putting a positive spin on the social isolation aspect, I’ve been taking part in Zoom calls and other online forms of communication more readily than ever before. Catching up with folk I wouldn’t normally and fostering new friendships have become routine. I’ve even taken part in a weekly quiz with my gran who lives in Perth, who I never get around to seeing that often. So, if I can factor out my morning commute to hit that elusive eight hours sleep then I may improve mood and productivity levels into the bargain. Another successful trade-in would be the time it might normally take heading back from campus to wind up my gran.
Regarding seminars and lectures online, working from home is an opportunity to prepare for what the future norm will likely be when it comes to work and further education. With the steady rise of ever more jobs being made home-based, it begs the question; which of us hasn’t longed to wear a shirt, tie, and slippers to work?