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What a regular day of an international looks like (pandemic edition)

Starting your studies at a university during a pandemic could seem like an uncertain and not worthwhile investment. Many students have been struggling with online education while having to cope with social isolation and disconnectedness. Sounds familiar? It's quite alarming to hear that up to 91% of students have felt lonely in the past months. However, real student life can be way more rewarding and diverse. Online classes AND attending lectures in person? Social distancing while going out AND having fun? YES, it's all possible.

But how does it actually feel like to be a student? JOIN ME!

In my previous post on coming to Groningen in times of COVID, I mentioned my experience of arranging the essentials before the start of the academic year. Now, I suggest you check out Level 2 and 3 of the virtual Groningen game while following along with my regular day of uni!

MORNING: Starting the day off on the right foot!

The first thing I do after getting ready and eating a delicious breakfast with my roommates is checking my plan for the day. If you’re someone like me (an organized nerd) who prefers to have a compact overview of all the classes, meetings with friends, library sessions, and other fun activities, create a personalized Google Calendar. Once you know the schedule of your program from Rooster or Nestor it’s super easy to transfer it to your Google Calendar.

What I do next is journaling for “morning clarity” which literally translates to a mind dump. It takes around five to ten minutes to write about whatever happened or has been bothersome or exciting. Taking care of my mind in this way in addition to psychotherapy has helped me “grow” immensely as a person. And given the current COVID situation, students should be paying more attention to their stress levels and mental health. Both the Student Service Centre of the RUG or the newly established initiative Not Alone offer workshops, training, and counseling for all students, mainly free of charge. So take advantage of it and nurture yourself by getting some help!

After journaling I feel more clear about my next intentions, usually, it’s some reading and taking notes for a class in my room or the University Library. The library is extremely popular among students so be quick to reserve a spot preferably a few days in advance. Two of my personal MUST DO’s in the library are: 1. a place on the fourth floor with a beautiful view and 2. An affordable coffee with friends in the “dining area”! (attention: there’s even a STARBUCKS on the ground floor!).

AFTERNOON: Online or physical classes and getting fresh air

After a productive study session in the library, I bike back to my SSH student house, Blekerslaan, where I cook lunch with 2 of my classmates (they’re also my best friends!) before watching a live lecture with them in one of our rooms. We would always watch the beginning of the lecture while eating our lunch - because well, that’s part of balancing online education with the reality of student life. Sometimes due to the proactive involvement of several students, the professors would stay longer to answer questions from the chat related to the content of their lecture. One advantage of large-scale online sessions is that everyone has an opportunity to contribute and ask questions more anonymously. On the other hand, it could be quite challenging to stay engaged with online seminars in smaller groups because of connectivity issues, and no physical contact with others. That’s why it’s crucial to alternate between staying in your room to attend lectures and going outside for a sip of fresh air! For me, going for a run along the canals in the city, grabbing a croissant (or 4 of them for 1€ weekly on a Tuesday!) on the market with a friend, or volunteering (with Red Cross), are the best ways to take a longer break from staring at a computer screen.

However, if you’re coming to Groningen this year, the high chances are that you will attend some lectures and seminars on campus! I’m really excited to meet my fellow classmates in person because we will all finally reconnect and feel like the real proud students of our university (and not just like some strangers on the screen).

EVENING: Studying, fun time with friends

Around 5 pm it’s time to hit the books again with nederlands leren (learning Dutch)! Last year I took two Dutch language courses provided by the university and found them extremely useful. Taking up to 3 of these courses costs NOTHING and they’re available both online and in-person at the moment. In my opinion, learning the local language and not staying in my international bubble the whole time has been a rewarding experience. I try to practice my Dutch-speaking skills as much as I can when going shopping and hanging out with my great “Taalcoach” from the organization Humanitas. After my Dutch lesson or another study session, it's time to enjoy a nice dinner, get a massage with friends, and crash into bed.

2 final tips for anyone who studies online:

1. Get into a routine: Find out what works for you the best and try to stick to your daily schedule. Is getting up for a lecture at 9 am too early for you? Maybe it’s better if you watch the recorded live stream later so you can do other important activities instead. Nevertheless, don’t beat yourself up if your plans fail - try a different approach or get inspired and see how others do it.

2. Balance it out! Separate between: a) study or work whether it’s online or on-campus, and b) your personal life and the time to relax. It can be difficult to motivate yourself while staying at home so try some “hacks”: dress up for studying; work out or do yoga with friends online/offline; get active with sports through ACLO; join study associations, such as the Erasmus Student Network (ESN). You will be amazed how easy it is to connect with people during a pandemic!

Do you want to see more of Linda as an Ambassador of Groningen? Follow Linda and the other ambassadors via the Instagram account of the Become a virtual Groninger game and stay in touch.