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College Survival Guide: Pandemic Version

Edited by: Ananya Khandelwal 

College is… weird. You miss it when you’re not there and you hate it when you’re there. And with the online Monsoon semester starting in two weeks, college is both here and well, not here. I experienced this with the summer semester. It ended last week and to say that it was stressful would be an understatement. But, it did come with its set of virtues: an idea of what a whole (albeit, compressed) semester of online classes would feel like. One way to put it would be that it is terribly nerve-wracking. It is intimidating and makes it too easy to just not attend classes (please attend classes though, don’t let me be a bad influence!). But it also made me realise that– and I know we’re all tired of hearing this–but we’re really all in this together. Yes, online classes are crazy intimidating but this feeling is shared by most people. So, that is how we ended up here, with me, a nervous wreck, writing about how I survived online classes and hoping that these little things help you too. 


The Battle With Online Classes:

Online classes take time getting used to. You’re tempted to skip them to ‘power’ nap, split screen with Netflix, mute the Professor or just… zone out. Yeah, been there, done that. Nope, not a good idea. This virtual attendance works the same as the real one — miss it once and you’re likely to do it again. Especially since there are recordings that you can just watch later. Well, spoiler alert: you will never get around to watching them, or finishing them. This is what happens: you miss a class on Tuesday, you mark it in your to-do list, and promise to watch the recording during the weekend. And then you miss one on Thursday. And then on Friday. And by the end of the week, you are left with a gigantic pile of classes… yeah, not motivating. Also not the best way to spend your weekend. Fine, sometimes, I agree it is much more beneficial to watch the recordings later on, for example, when the professor goes too fast or it’s a math course (do I even need to explain this?). But, the point is, do not let your laziness or procrastination or the classic excuse of weekend, stop you. (Okay, but for 8:30 classes it’s okay. I think. Sorry, sleep >> everything else.) 

Also, if you get distracted during the class by *cough* your phone. Switch. It. Off. Turn on the airplane mode and throw it away. I cannot explain how much this has helped me. And, I am not sure if this is obvious or not, but do not attend class from bed? You will be sleepy throughout. In fact, if possible, try to attend class with someone around. I usually attend class from the living room, adjacent to which is the kitchen where I can see my mum doing her baking. I tend to get more distracted when I’m left alone, so this has worked well for me (the constant smell of chocolate doesn't hurt either).

Since creating an academic atmosphere at home is not easy, especially one similar to college, it becomes important to have your own established study space. I even tried experimenting with sitting at different places for different classes, just to get back that feel of attending class on campus, it sort of worked (probably would have worked better had I not been a lazy bum. Oops.) 

But, please do remember that you are not expected to perform the same way you did in college. It is not easy to study at home and that is okay. Do not be hard on yourself if you are not able to do ‘well’ or study enough. If there is one thing this pandemic has taught me is that too much time has been spent worrying over insignificant things. So, ditching readings to video-call your friends once in a while is okay. Ditching one assignment to watch Umbrella Academy’s new season is okay. It’s okay to prioritise yourself. Getting a B or a C is NOT the end of the world. Neither is a D for that matter. And quoting my mom on this, what matters is what you’ve learnt and grades don’t decide that. *insert wholesome smiling face with heart emojis* 

Also, while we’re at the topic of academic pressure: find your support system, i.e, your savior. I would not have survived the summer semester without my friends, who not only procrastinated with me but also made sure we got (some) work done. This brings me to my third (fourth?) point: find yourself a study-buddy (or a study group if that works better for you). For collective procrastination and mutual brainstorming and proof-reading of papers.You don't necessarily need to have the same courses, rather just the same level of motivation and understanding. It’s amazing how much this can help in reducing stress.  

Lastly, and I cannot emphasise this enough, take courses that interest you. If a course does not interest you, you will not be motivated to study it. A course, especially when online, gets so much easier to get through when you’re genuinely excited by it. Plus, college education is not cheap — so it only makes sense for you to enjoy it.  


The Battle With College, In General:

Sooo yeah, college is stressful. There’s always too much happening at the same time and it can get increasingly overwhelming. Here are some other things that helped: 

(Over) organising! Add your classes to your calendar, note down your absences for classes where attendance matters, write down important assignment dates, prioritise within those assignments and download your readings beforehand! If you’re someone who prefers going digital over paper, note-taking apps like Notion, Agenda and Trello are really, really nice. Otherwise, pen and paper is always great. But! Organise! This makes it all feel less scattered and getting things done becomes easier. 

Step out of your little bubble! Join a new club or society, attend talks and different events. Or, hold your own mini-meetings and movie nights. Call your friends and talk to them about anything and then everything. Don’t over-isolate. Try to socialise. It’s easy to get lost within ourselves these days and be convinced that there is nothing good left. These little interactions help in remembering bits and pieces of how life was before Covid. They’re also a good break from the stressful academic environment. 

But, at the same time, go easy on yourself too. Find your balance. If socialisation starts to feel too much and gets exhausting, it’s okay. Take a step back. Prioritise your mental health. Utilise your college mental health sources, and reach out. Remember, mental health takes precedence over everything. Always. (It’s completely okay if this requires you to skip class too.)

Also, catch up on your sleep. I know there's a culture of romanticising sleep deprivation for college students but please, no, you do not have to push yourself. If you’re someone who does not function well without sleep, get some sleep! Do not convince yourself it’s okay to not get enough sleep because no one else does, either. That is not how it works and everyone is not the same. Do not do this to yourself! 

Finally, understand that college is all about prioritising. Your classes, courses, assignments, readings, phone-calls, friday (or thursday, for Ashokans) nights, your sleep and me-time all require you to find a balance. And it's okay if this balance does not come immediately. You will come across multiple posts like these and they will all tell you different things. See what works best for you– you’re allowed to experiment. Find your own path. Everyone deals with things differently. This post was just an attempt to show you one way of it and make you realise that you’re not alone in this battle. I can only hope it worked. 

outside of being a writer with an almost perpetual writer’s block, tanya spends most her time taking random photographs, romanticising the future and consuming too much sugar. currently (unless she changes her mind again) tanya hopes to major in psychology and political science. https://lettersanddebris.wordpress.com
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