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Living during a pandemic has changed a lot of things, among which is the way we take our classes. This semester, every student at the University of Puerto Rico will be taking all of their courses online. Sure, before the pandemic, some classes offered a hybrid format—in-person classes with some online hours—but most of us had never taken fully online courses until last semester. This experience proved to be a  steep learning curve for both students and professors. It was a somewhat strained transition, since neither had a lot of time to prepare for the sudden changes. But this time, we had the whole summer to prepare for this new journey. Here are a few things you can do to start the new online semester smoothly. 

Prepare your study place

Regardless of whether you are living back home or staying at your dorm, you need to separate a place to take your classes and study. Since you can’t go to the university, bring the university to you. Place a small table in your room for your computer and other materials, clean out that old desk that you never really used before, or pick a quiet corner of your house and make it cozy. The point is to choose and prepare a space specifically for your courses only. That way, you can concentrate better, avoid distractions and create a routine where you separate your college work from your daily life at home. 

    Organize your materials

    Just because you will be taking online courses, doesn’t mean you should skip the back-to-school preparations. Go buy your notebooks, pens and highlighters because we have work to do. If you don’t use a notebook, then prepare a folder on your computer for every single one of your classes. Do the same things you used to do for in-person courses. This will help you to keep the semblance of normality and make you feel more in control of the semester ahead. 

    Talk with your family about your schedule 

    This is very important: you need to communicate with your family. They can be the biggest distraction while taking classes back home, like accidentally interrupting your concentration during an important test. So, sit down and discuss your schedule with them. Thoroughly explain your class hours and let them know whenever you need time to study outside of your scheduled classes. Personally, I recommend putting a paper with your itinerary in front of the door to your study space. This way, they can check anytime if you are taking a class or doing something important without interrupting. Here is a good schedule maker to keep both you and your family organized!

    Keep up a stable routine

    Because we’re not used to this situation, it can be difficult to keep track of everything that is going on while staying at home 24/7. So, to keep the sense of normality and maintain your mental health, create a daily routine and commit to it. Wake up and make sure to make breakfast and drink your coffee, tea or drink of preference to start the day off well. Make sure to be on-time to your online courses and set apart some time for your homework, while also taking breaks and relaxing when you need to. Go about your day as you used to do before.

    Reach out to your professors 

    Your academic success this semester depends a lot on communicating with your professors. Since we won’t see them face to face anymore, make sure to get their email and ask for ways to reach them if you ever need something or have doubts about the class. Remember to pay close attention to your courses and organize yourself. Just like us students, the professors are trying to get used to something new, so have patience with them, but if you end up needing their help, don't be afraid to ask. 

    The upcoming semester might be online, but that’s not a reason to freak out or slack off. Take a deep breath and prepare yourself. I’m sure you're gonna do just fine. Good luck with your classes!

    Alana is currently in her fifth year, studying Comparative Literature in the UPR Río Piedras Campus. She loves books, superheroes and mythology. Will sing any song that she knows (even if she can't sing to save her life) and is always tired. She dreams with someday writing a book.
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