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Good vibes (for bad days) – Franka’s story

University of Nottingham PhD international student and copywriter Franka shares the ups and down of being a postgraduate student during COVID-19 and juggling her UK PhD demands while back in her home country Croatia.

What are you studying?

I am undertaking a PhD in Sociology at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom.

How are you finding student life during COVID-19?

It's not easy. Lack of motivation can sometimes be a problem.

When I'm in the UK, I'm surrounded by my fellow colleagues and it's easier to get your work done when you know everyone in the office share the same struggles.

Being home means being alone with your work and that's when you realise that those little coffee breaks mean the world, when you get to share your stories with your colleagues and you get an advice you didn't even expect in the first place.

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What are you struggling with the most?

I'm struggling with keeping active. Back in the UK, I frequently visited the gym, and it was sort of a relaxation time for me. Both for my mind and body.

Now at home it's really hard to continue with keeping up that daily routine, even a simple stretch. 

However, here in Croatia I live in a countryside so I do spend a lot of time outdoors. I go for long walks or help my mum in the garden. It's definitely something, but I wish I had the strength and motivation to go for a run! 

What are your top tips for staying happy and positive, and looking after your mental health?

Keeping with my little schedule does the trick. I'm a person that likes routine so I try do stick to it even now in self-isolation. I have time for studying, time for reading, time for afternoon rest, time for Netflix. I know it sounds a bit crazy but that way I feel like I've done something in the end of the day and I actually feel productive. 

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What have you learned about yourself that surprised you the most? 

At first, I thought self-isolation will be like a vacation to me. I always thought I was an introvert. That's how it was for the first two weeks, I enjoyed the silence, time with my family, no people and unnecessary contact.

But then, I soon realised I started to miss things I've always hated; small talk with people you don't know, or networking among strangers. That came as a huge surprise, so I guess I can't wait to meet new people! 

What hobbies, skills or superpowers have you picked up?

I pretty much continued with everything I already did before the pandemic had started. In my free time I like to play my guitar or read a good book.

Now I spend more time in nature so maybe I could say I developed an interest in plants. My mum knows a lot about it, so I’m using this time to learn as much as I can, especially about medicinal plants and herbs.

What are you most looking forward to?

I can't wait to see my friends in the UK. To go back to my office, go back to my everyday PhD life.  

It's been already two months since I came back to my Croatian home and I never thought I'd say this, but I miss my UK life. 

Loved reading Franka's story?

You can explore more stories by international students in our blog.


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