This past Winter quarter was my return to academia after six months because I de-assessed from Fall 2020. In a previous article, I wrote that I was prepared for winter’s turmoil. I’ll give an account of my experience and what I learned.
Invigorated after the long break and the end of daily scheduled work hours, I enrolled in 20 units the past quarter. To provide perspective, taking 12 units is considered full-time student status. My five classes were a mix of live virtual lectures and asynchronous learning. While live lectures somewhat helped to maintain a pace and schedule, they presented a barrier and an inaccessible form of education. The asynchronous classes were critical to any success. Other issues inevitably came up through constantly being at home. I remotely worked one day of the week, which interfered with one of the synchronous lectures. Thankfully, it was also recorded, allowing me to retain that small stream of income.
With my time management skills improved, I committed to completing my readings. My main tip for acing a class? Do the readings! From the perspective of someone in the social sciences, aim to relate concepts to your life and other events in order to understand its application.
It’s important to try out different approaches if one doesn’t work for you. Some weeks, I couldn’t muster the energy to stay on schedule and chose to work in large periods of time instead of dividing it into daily tasks. I would put off an assignment for the next day if I hit a mental slump. I once submitted a discussion post a day late and wrote “sorry, I forgot what day it was :/” at the bottom. They graciously accepted my late submission. It’s perfectly understandable to not always be on top of your to-do list.
Feeling like I had a fresh start, I didn’t automatically rejoin organizations that I was involved with before the pandemic. This quarter, I pursued more hobby-oriented extracurriculars. I knew myself to be a more creative person than academia gave me credit for. I didn’t want to restrict myself. Being hedonistic was a necessity to make my scheduled time feel bearable and enjoyable.
Winter is notorious for bringing seasonal depression. While this rings less true in sunny California, in addition to COVID-19-prompted social distancing, being inside had similar effects. The distressing feeling of being confined to our homes, akin to cabin fever, affected my mental health. Sometimes I would feel too irritable to reach out for help or contact friends.
Taking time for yourself to remember yourself and your interests is healing when you feel overwhelmed by external pressure. For some, other people like friends are that reprieve. Personally, walking while listening to audiobooks and podcasts provided an escape from my anxious thoughts.
I had to remind myself to be gentle. I don’t exist to simply output and perform. I can’t complain about the Winter quarter too much because I did receive A grades for all my classes! In summation, here’s my advice:
- Set realistic expectations and goals. Try out different methods.
- Reconsider what keeps you attentive and passionate.
- Have the courage to pursue it.
- Manage your time. Make schedules! Give yourself leisure time.
- Retain the gap quarter mindset of prioritizing your mental health.
You don’t need a particular catalyst to decide you want to change your life, go ahead and do it! If there’s anything my gap quarter, specifically during this pandemic, taught me, it’s that life can change at any moment. I need to commit to making the most of the time I do have—whether that be utilizing potential time for studying or relaxing and enjoying entertainment.