As I have finally accomplished one of the biggest goals in life i.e. graduating from university, I believe that a little essay to acknowledge it is obligatory. You see, my whole journey culminating to this hasn’t been easy and has been very unpredictable to say the least.

My last year, which I expected to be the most fun-filled and defining moments of my university experience, involved watching mostly pre-recorded lectures, in my mismatched pyjamas with little to no social contact with my other classmates (or the world in general). It definitely sucked that I wasn’t able to get ready for class, meet new people at the beginning of each new semester and engage with them at a more personal level, eat out after a class and so on. 

I’m not going to sugar-coat it because it would be utterly dishonest and disrespectful to all the other students who struggled with the same issue this year, so I am going to make it official. I definitely had the worst experience while studying at home alone.

I am very tempted to write more about all that has been bad and horrible but what’s the point when all that could be understood with the few sentences above. Life definitely threw curveballs, not that I wasn’t expecting any but a PANDEMIC? Oof. Anyway, what has happened has happened and I suppose I have earned some bragging rights, right?

I suppose I should enlighten people with some very obligatory “Don’t do this, cause I did and it sucked.” I have done some mental gymnastics to work out a little list of the things I wish I knew better about and some mistakes that I saw my friends make so here it goes:

  1. Dress up everyday even if you have nothing to do.

I never turned on my Zoom camera because I didn’t have to and I definitely felt no need to dress up. In retrospect, I was dumb. One of the biggest joys that I had came when I was getting ready for my in-person classes. The little ritual everyday was the biggest boost to the quality of my day and my confidence. The past year or so, I just found myself more and more disconnected from the person I was and I 100% agree that not keeping up my ritual made me more sad and unproductive. Now that I think back on it, I should have turned on the camera more often because, when I did, I had the most fun and fulfilling experiences, similar to my in-class experiences. I wish I could have gotten that push from somewhere but it’s okay. At least now I know.

2)   Talk to your classmates/professors more whenever you get the opportunity. 

Now this is something that I saw a lot of people struggle with pre-COVID, and post-COVID times gave them a safe haven for not communicating. This is one of the most damaging aspects of having online classes. Many people are okay with studying alone and passing, but I think that they often lack or risk losing the confidence that is crucial in the real-world. Something that they will have to do once everybody gets to see each other in-person.

Be active in your class’s Zoom group chat and get to know other people. Type out your questions or responses and most probably the whole class will read it and try to help you out. What’s even more interesting is that you will actually make a bigger impact on your friends and professors because they will see your name every time you speak up and will probably end up recognizing you more. This is something that I found to happen very rarely in-person. Many students end up being scared of speaking up because they feel the whole class’s eyes on them and get scared that they will make a fool of themselves. So if you have your camera off, go ahead and ask away all your questions because NOBODY knows what you look like and the probability that all your classmates will see you in-person one day and recognize you are slim. Might as well make some use of that “anonymity.”

3)   Attend Live Lectures

Having pre-recorded lectures has been extremely helpful to me and many, many other students. There is absolutely no denying that being able to go back to certain topics that you were unable to understand and rewatch them without anyone counting is very helpful in building a better foundation of that subject. I certainly did that many times but now that I look back at it, I should have been present for the live lectures whenever possible.

Nothing can beat the experience of being in the same boat as your other classmates at 8 in the morning. Sure you will need to learn to be punctual and dedicated but you will also feel much less lonely. I have seen a lot of friends complain about feeling alone or left-out of the class and most of the time it’s because they miss the live lectures and the group discussions. Don’t be lazy and miss out because all these little things are supposed to make you feel better about studying at home and this is why you should take the opportunity.  

4)   DO NOT STUDY IN BED

Yes, this needed to be capitalized. I have been guilty of it and many, many others are. Studying in bed is counter-productive and very unhealthy in the long run. You basically become a slob and unknowingly channel all slob-like tendencies in your work and personal life. Make yourself a designated work-station and force yourself, if you have to, to go sit there. Make your bed the sacred place to watch Netflix and sleep but please don’t be writing your biology papers there at 3 a.m. when you actually should be sleeping in it.

As I conclude, writing this made me feel a little better because at least I learnt what I should never do in the future. Lessons learnt one way or another are lessors learnt. So hopefully you will take some of my advice and have a much better and fulfilling time at on-line school.

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