The world as we know it has been crippled under COVID-19 and the pandemic has brought all of us together. Most of us who are studying abroad are privileged to have a roof over us, enough food to eat and seamless access to the internet. And even though loneliness can drive any sane person to the edge, I feel that we’ve countless ways to cope with it.
To all those like me who’re away from your family, I just wanted to say that we’re in this together. You don’t have to feel guilty about the frustrations consuming you as a consequence of COVID-19, we are all struggling through this in our own ways.
Personally, I lost my casual job, I’m forced to transition to online classes (like the majority of us), and most importantly, I’m unable to see my family and friends except through video calls. These string of events as an international student can be unnerving but we can do our part to protect everyone else by staying at home. Perhaps, we can even use this time to unwind and recharge.
But adapting to this new normal is tough. I was miserable for the first two weeks. I kept refreshing Twitter for news updates every five minutes and was giving me so much anxiety that I couldn’t find the energy to move about during the day, eventually I was falling behind my university work schedules.
By week three, I decided to turn things around. And I want to share them with you, hoping you’ll find a balance and regain some of your sanity as well.
1. Get your sleep cycle on track:
I can’t emphasise enough how waking up early and going to sleep on time has changed me. Falling asleep when the sun rises and waking up just before sunset not only wrecks your body clock but also makes you feel groggy and gloomy throughout the day. Revive your routine and see how positively your body responds.
2. Set goals for the day:
Make a to-do list the night before and follow it through the next day. Prioritize the most difficult tasks in the morning and save the easiest for later. Being productive will make you feel satisfied by the end of the day.
This was not easy for me to do because I love to procrastinate, but I realised that all I needed to do was start and then I naturally picked up the pace.
3. Talk to family and meet up with your friends in virtual worlds:
Come on, we international students should be experts on this – we depend on social media platforms or apps to connect with our family and friends back home. Although, in some cases you’ll have to do a little bit of investigative work to find out what apps or platforms work best for your home country.
As an example, I haven’t been able to see or talk to my parents for over a year because they live in the Middle East and the country has restricted access to video/audio calling services and international calls are quite expensive. But I recently downloaded Totok and Botim, which enables me to audio and video call anyone in the Middle East.
I also discovered Houseparty, an app that allows me to hang out my friends or play multiplayer games with them, such as the board game Settlers of Catan. Take hold of these apps and beat your quarantine blues.
4. Discover new hobbies or revisit old ones:
This one’s a no-brainer. We’ve had hobbies we loved before ‘life’ happened. There’s no better time than now to unite with your long-lost hobbies.
If you’re like me and have no recollection of having hobbies, then find something that you’ve always wanted to do. Have you been interested in taking up sketching? Maybe you’re interested in learning how to build websites? Well, maybe now’s the best time to brush up those skills.
5. Redecorate your room:
If you think that the poster hanging on your wall has been there for way too long, maybe it’s time for a makeover.
Change is good and the new and improved appearance of your room might be just the inspiration you’ll need to get back to work. After all, we’re going to spending a lot of time indoors so it’s a good idea to breathe new life into our rooms and make it feel more like home.
6. Take time out for self-care:
Now that you’re at home, you have no excuse for being unable to drink enough water or not eating healthy or overlooking your skin’s needs.
While we are spending more time indoors because of COVID-19, taking care of our body and health is even more important but I do not recommend suddenly switching to extreme diets and taking on 14 steps of skincare routine because that won’t last.
However, take this time to start some healthy habits such as eating food in moderation, drinking eight glasses of water and invest in basic but pragmatic skincare habits.
7. Keeping up with online classes:
By now, I’m sure our inboxes are stuffed with emails from professors informing us about the latest changes and dozens more reiterating the same, it’s understandable if you feel lost halfway through. Because I did, and I gave up. Then two weeks’ worth of classes came back to haunt me.
There’s no shortcut or easy way out to deal with this. Hence, I decided to postpone my procrastination for a while. I noted down important pointers such as assessment due dates, Zoom meeting times and forums for class discussion. It helped me feel connected and informed.
I know it can be compelling to procrastinate since learning materials are readily available online. However, I would suggest that you treat online classes just like you did with your face-to-face classes by finishing the readings on time and actively participating in discussion forums. That way, you will not fall behind.
Going the extra mile with your coursework will really help to stay organized and be productive. And don’t hesitate to reach out to professors or your peers for help. They understand the gravity of the situation and everybody’s looking out for one another.
8. The mandatory Netflix:
As much as you stay connected and try to be productive, the need to be distracted can help to keep your mind and emotions in check. And that’s why it might be a good time to watch movies or catch up on your favorite shows.
I had a two-year long ‘must-watch’ list on my phone and now I’m finally getting around to it.
Finding serenity amongst chaos can be a gargantuan task but there’s no competition to see who can attain ‘inner peace’ first. Remember, it’s important to go at your own pace and create new routines according to your rhythm, and it only needs to be enough to get you out of bed in the morning and help you go to sleep with a clear head.