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An Online University Day In My Life: 12 Hours Ahead of Boston

As a result of the CDC’s travel ban, I choose to stay in my home country and do remote learning for this fall semester. Even though I'm grateful to continue my studies at BU as an international student remotely, I've realized that this semester is not going to be that simple. My daily routine, body, and even mood will likely be hampered by the 12-hour time difference that “messes” everything upside down. Let me walk you through a typical day in my life before I share some tips on how to make it as an international student back home.

From 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. EST, when my friends on the east coast kick off a day with a hearty breakfast or a refreshing morning run, it’s my time to take a quick shower and a cat nap before my consecutive classes at midnight start to drain my body and spirit. I usually will set up multiple alarms to make sure that I’m fully awake and remember to double-check my internet and desk set-ups to be ready for hopping on Zoom.

From 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. EST, a lot of Terriers wrap up their school days, heading to Mugar to cram all the knowledge into brains or dragging friends out of the dorm to explore the city after school. For me, however, it’s finally time to rest. Midnight classes seem to be bearable after chugging coffee to stop my eyes twitching, yet I have no solid answer on whether I can handle this for the whole semester. Lights off, I snuggle up in my bed with my avocado toy.

From 8:00 to 9:00 p.m., I lie on the bed in a daze, I recover from the hectic academic schedule and go downstairs to grab some food, replenishing my energy for the day. Apparently my biological clock doesn’t follow my updated schedule, as I startled from sleep and don’t have a feeling of catching up on missed ones.

After 11:00 p.m. EST, the night is getting darker, and the whole city of Boston is drifting off to sleep. On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, I make myself a checklist to keep track of the tasks that I’m going to grind for the day. The first few weeks are usually chill so that I can sometimes take a break from schoolwork, digging into my own project, or just binging watch some TV shows. Yet I can foresee that I will bump it up as time goes on. 

That briefly sums up a day in my life as a college student studying online from a different time zone. Although it’s not in line with the studying habits that I’ve been fostered since childhood and the expectations that I’ve created for my college experience, I want to take this opportunity to share a few tips for all of us who are doing remote learning, to help unlock our maximum productivity.

Take handwritten notes

Staring at the computer screen all day makes us feel jaded. At some point you are going to admit that using note-taking apps just gives you another chance to distract yourself. You are not probably aware of how much time you have spent on social media with another tab or browser while the online class is still ongoing. Why not shift to handwritten notes to create an atmosphere of off-line learning? It’s more satisfying and fulfilling when you witness the improvement in your engagement and memory.

Don't stay in your pajamas

We take classes from a multipurpose area such as our bedroom or kitchen, which are the places we usually used to be lounging in our comfy clothes. Yet pajamas encourage the habitual laziness of human beings and will ultimately make us slack off and feel neglectful while studying or working. Put yourself together, and turn on your camera during lectures to form a sense of ritual.

Keep in touch with your professors

The fact that we can no longer do as much interpersonal communication during the pandemic is probably what I dislike the most. Having a small talk or coffee chat is certainly not as frequent and natural when it is all happening online. Therefore, it’s always better for us to utilize emails and office hours to constantly communicate with our professors; don't be afraid of asking them questions to ensure that virtual students are on the same page as our classmates.

Good luck with your new school year! Whether you are attending classes fully remotely or having in-person class every once in a while, stay safe and strong! Getting through this difficult time all together empowers and inspires us to live to our fullest potential.

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Zhilan is a current sophomore at Boston University. Being an extroverted introvert, she loves to cook healthy food, explore aesthetic coffee shops, and read mysteries.
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