Studying is Short for Student Brain Cells Dying: An Observational Study of Life in the Time of Corona

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: what could I possibly have to say that you have not heard before? Indeed, this assumption is not entirely wrong, but I feel as a local older sister figure, MSU senior (horrifying how time passes so fast), and general busybody I may have a few nuggets of wisdom hidden up the sleeve of my baggy sweater. For the unfortunate batch of freshman who have joined our fair university this year, with far-fetched hopes of a normal semester of growing, failing forward, parties, and all nighters — I am truly sorry that your year to do laundry wrong, panic-email teachers and TAs alike, or even stress-buy (and subsequently eat in one night) overpriced snacks from Sparty’s has been taken away from you. I can only hope to convince you that you haven’t missed too many experiences you can’t make up in the coming years. To my harried comrades who have been at this college student gig for a while, I pray you are holding up as best you can.

We’ve moved quite a ways away from the time of baking bread, playing the newest version of Animal Crossing, and picking up new hobbies. Is it reflective of our society that the game we’re obsessed with now involves deception and brutal murder on a spaceship? Honestly, it’s not too surprising that life is not all sunshine, rainbows, and dalgona coffee. More than advice or tips, I present to you my humble observations of our shared time of isolation with the feeble promise that you may learn something of my shortcomings and maybe enjoy a good laugh at my expense.

On Hobbies: To the surprise of absolutely no one, my favourite hobby is writing. That being said, my best kept secret is found deep in the archives of my Google drive: narrative writing. Years of attempted NaNoWriMo prep has resulted in a lot of planning, a lot of procrastinating, and not too much actual writing of the novel in question as evidenced by my folders full of half-written drafts. The lesson here being that quarantine has led me to find new hobbies to avoid old hobbies. Never fear, to make up for this tragedy of writers block I have become an expert in two very important quarantine skills: trawling the internet for new music and bingeing some of the worst movies on Netflix. The rationale being if the world is going to the dogs I may as well put a good soundtrack to it. By scouring a grand total of two sites over the course of 6 months I present to you first the hidden gem that is VGo, Chicago based Tamil DJ and creator of music I listen to when I need to remember what feeling serotonin is like. The majority of his mixes can be found on either his Youtube channel, Soundcloud account, or the site Audiomack. Although, it is Youtube (aka site 1) where I first listened to his COVID-era release: an album called ‘The New Indian-American.’ This has been on repeat since its release largely because it feels like my lived experiences as a child of immigrants bottled up and poured into a song. Unfortunately, these songs aren’t on Spotify (site 2) and I can’t listen to them when the wifi inconveniently cuts out at 3am, which led to what I casually refer to as my greatest creation: the international 2-day study playlist. Comprised of 27 different languages, a variety of genres, and 733 songs it comes out to a little over 48 hours worth of music. What can I say, Chilled Cow wasn’t quite doing it for me anymore. How does this have anything to do with your life? Full disclosure, it probably doesn’t aside from needing a vibe check for your study music and a good way to distract yourself on the internet while perfectly honing your distinctive music tastes. Enjoy! It might also be of some importance to note that if you too have run out of things to watch on Netflix (or streaming site of choice) then now is a good time to watch something in another language. Here I shall shamelessly plug my own articles should you ever wish to indulge in the colorful trainwreck that is Bollywood.

On Studying: Long after the sun has set, when the moon is high in the sky and the wifi is at its strongest, is when I do the vast majority of my studying. This has massively messed up my sleep schedule and as a whole is not something I would recommend. The myths they tell you about your body slowing down with age are true and should be taken seriously. Maybe this is just because I’ve always been an old soul, but it seems as if my body decided to play catch up when my brain went from 14 to 40. I physically cannot pull all-nighters anymore, and encourage everyone else to do the same. Sleep, a most precious commodity, is meant to be cherished and valued as highly as gold. That did not stop me from continuing to study late at night though. Because of my habit I have had to compensate for the lack of ambient daytime noise with my trusty headphones. Rationally, I’m perfectly well aware that every creak of the floorboards and whistling wind is not an axe murderer hunting for my head at midnight, but convincing myself of the fact during the witching hour is another feat. In comes my trusty new digital friend: Discord. The fun new way to study, play music, organize meet-ups, chat, and its original function of gaming. The handy dandy installation of a free music bot on Discord was like a gift because there are no ads. I repeat no ads. For those of you who are like me and too broke to pay for Spotify premium or throw money at a solid ad-blocker, this may be the solution for you. It is understandably difficult to stay on top of classwork given the current predicament, and so along with some good tunes a well organized calendar/planner/to-do-list goes a long way when coupled with a well-organized Google drive should your internet connection be as spotty as mine. Freshman, I’m addressing you when I say save everything to the cloud...EVERYTHING. If it goes on D2L, save it, and then regularly check the site for new updates.

On Extracurriculars: Finding new clubs to join is integral to the Spartan experience, and with over 900 we are definitely spoiled for choice. Yet, this year’s Sparticipation was devoid of its usual goodies and undoubtedly a more subdued affair. Clubs have largely taken to advertising via mass email. While I appreciate the options coming to me I’m not so fond of the increased traffic in my already strained inbox. My usual top pick for extracurricular has been sidelined for the moment, what with it being a dance organization. As a result, I’ve turned my sights to a club that fulfills my more career-oriented goals. A fantastic new club to join for both pre-health hopefuls and social people who like to talk a lot is MSU BEI (Brain Exercise Initiative). For the more altruistic of you, it is a nice way to interact with someone new who is maybe in need of a friend and a good chat. For the prospective physicians, yes you do get clinical volunteer hours out of it and guest speakers who are actual doctors. Although the volunteer applications for the fall semester are now closed, the spring term will soon be upon us and with it comes the ideal moment to sign up and volunteer. This club has a maximum time commitment of 3 hours of week and is both fulfilling work and helpful for resume building.

On Campus Culture: While I wasn’t exactly picky in where I was going to go to university, I did have to select my campus though a lengthy process of elimination. MSU stood the victor at the end of my deliberation largely due to one factor: the sense of community. The tour guide who dragged my mother and I around campus in the freezing autumn rain emphasized on multiple occasions that the lack of bell-curve grading encouraged students to work together, share notes, and collaborate. It has been an absolutely wonderful experience watching my peers come together and stand united against a common enemy: online classes. The answer to most of the problems caused by this transition can be found in the form of, or rather in, a group chat. Missed class? Group chat. Scared for a test? Group chat. Don’t know the answer to the homework? Group chat. Never before have I seen such a level of dedication to sharing updates on what happened in class. I won’t deny that the GroupMe app on my phone has been an invaluable resource and it has led to a newfound appreciation of group review sessions when previously my only study partners were my headphones and, on the odd occasion, my roommates. 

Despite my, admittedly, hermit-like lifestyle I have found that this ongoing pandemic has managed to expose both the very best and very worst of us. For some this may be seen in their close circle of family and friends, though the sentiment still stands for the country or even the world as a whole. Yes, I wholeheartedly agree that in the U.S. this feels like the worst coordinated group project in human history. Now, while we are in preparation for what will hopefully be the last wave of lockdowns, I’m glad that we have learned to cope with the challenges this semester has presented us and have come together as individuals and as a university. Stay safe, and stay home.