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Hello, second online-because-our-country-hasn’t-figured-out-COVID-yet semester. This past spring semester, I, like pretty much everyone else, was suddenly banished from campus, forcing me to finish remotely. The transition was frantic, disorganized, and, quite frankly, miserable. However, this fall doesn’t have to be! With time to prepare over the summer, I put together small baskets for my friends with everything I wish I had this past spring. Since I can’t give every reader a basket (I desperately wish I could!), sharing what the baskets included is the next best thing. So, here are the contents!

A good set of earbuds

I don’t know about your homes, but mine is So. Freaking. Loud. And I’m the only kid! I never realized just how noisy a house could be until I was hearing 30 different people’s background noises at once (use your mute buttons, people!). Being able to simply “plug in” when it was time for class, then “unplug” after the meeting alleviated so many of my worries. Not only did it cut down on background noise and help me focus; it also provided me with a very clear boundary between my academic time and free time, a boundary I really struggled to create in the early months of online classes.

A cozy blanket

Even though I can’t be in bed for class, I can sure make it feel like I still am! Since my computer’s camera only displays above my torso, I can wrap my lower half up in a wonderfully soft blanket. This makes those early morning Zoom calls much more bearable and keeps me alert; I’m no longer shivering or daydreaming about being back in bed.

A cute mug

Again, something to help with those early morning Zoom classes. Can you tell I’m not a morning person? I nearly always have a cup of coffee in my hand if it’s before 10 a.m. Getting a cute, cheerful mug for my coffee (or tea, whatever you prefer!) makes my mornings a little bit brighter. The mug is also a fun conversation starter in class! It allows for a bit of human connection before we dig into the technicalities of our lessons.

An off-screen hobby

I was on my computer way too much this past spring. Like, oh-my-gosh-my-eyes-hurt-I-can’t-do-this too much. I could not, for the life of me, figure out why my eyes and head were throbbing by the end of every weekday. I eventually realized it was because, in addition to  my normal phone time, I was sitting on my computer for hours with no breaks. I began cutting down the time on my phone, using earbuds to set clear boundaries between class and free time, and taking up some hobbies off-screen, such as reading a paper book, exercising, getting back into photography, caring for my plants, and cooking. After I made those changes, my headaches improved immensely. Even though I still can’t get out of the house much, doing simple things helped me to improve my on- and off-screen balance.

A desktop planner

My life descended into chaos the second I heard I wasn’t going back to school. Complete, utter, chaos. I literally didn’t open my backpack for at least two weeks after I received the news. I usually use a combination of three planners to keep my life in order: my phone’s, a typical bound planner, and my computer’s. However, with fewer in-person appointments and a slower pace of life, I suddenly didn’t need to continue my three-planner system. In an attempt to lessen my screen time, I was inducted into the world of desktop planners. They’re small — about the size of a sheet of paper — and list out each day of the week. Once you finish the week, you simply tear off that sheet and start a new one. The sheets gave me the perfect amount of space to list out my Zoom class times, deadlines, homework assignments, as well as any miscellaneous chores, without being overwhelming. I place the planner at the top corner of my desk — close enough that I’d see it every day, but not so close that it clutters my workspace.

I hope you’re able to make another semester of online classes a bit more enjoyable after looking through my list. Good luck, study hard, and have a positive mindset — you might end up loving it!

Katie Ryan

Columbia Barnard '24

Katie is an incoming first year at Columbia College. She's a coxswain for the men's heavyweight crew team and spends her free time working out, volunteering, and reading. Katie is planning to double major in English & Comparative Literature and Human Rights, specializing in Economics.
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