Bethany Chisholm is currently in her second year of Law with English Law at the University of Aberdeen and hopes, after graduation, to train and practice as a solicitor in either commercial, criminal or family law

 When COVID-19 struck in March 2020, our lives were quickly and drastically turned upside down. We had to adapt to new ways of living which were so different to those we were used to, and, in many cases, ones we had never experienced before. From ‘WFH’ and ‘home-schooling’ to only leaving the house for essential purposes, it was a massive adjustment.

Students have also had to adapt to changes in the way they study and take exams and I am one of these students.

In March last year, much to my disappointment, I came home from Aberdeen to finish my first year of university. I haven’t been back since and now that I’m in my second semester of second year, I feel as though I haven’t experienced university life - as it should be. Adjusting to going to lectures, tutorials and completing assessments solely online has, without a doubt, been one of the biggest challenges for me personally.  One day I was sitting in a lecture theatre with hundreds of other students and preparing for exams which we would take in a room together, and the next day I was ‘at uni’ in my bedroom, listening to pre-recorded lectures and preparing to sit my exams remotely! It’s a huge contrast, however, almost a year on, I think I’ve adapted a lot better than I originally thought I would.

The key, I believe, to managing ‘online university’, is structure and organisation. It’s so easy to fall into a routine where you essentially don’t have a routine, so this semester, I’m making it my goal to get up early every day and also to go to sleep earlier - similar to what I would do if I was back at university. I think this is something that’s very helpful as it gets you into that mindset of being, albeit not physically, ‘in’ university. I’m also trying very hard to make time for myself every evening to relax.  Experience has taught me that without time away from computer screens and textbooks, emotional wellbeing can quickly deteriorate. It’s far too easy, especially if you are behind on work or you have deadlines looming, to stop looking after yourself emotionally, however, in my opinion, it is just as important to look after your mental wellbeing as it is to achieve good grades.

Something else I’ve started this semester is to make ‘to-do’ lists in the form of daily and weekly plans.  Organising your week and laying out deadlines and any other commitments you may have is a great way to get an idea of what sort of week lies ahead for you and what days are busy or less so. My daily plans are drawn up every morning and include lectures I have to attend, reading I have to do, tutorial preparation and any assessments that I have along with anything else which needs actioned on a daily basis. So far, this has worked extremely well for me as having my day planned out by the hour means I am much more productive.  For me, organisation is so important and compared to last semester, when I had less structure to my day, I’ve realised that a lot of my time was spent not doing anything at all!

Another important aspect of studying from home is ensuring you keep up with the work! It sounds so simple, yet I know it’s overlooked by many (including myself sometimes). Keeping up to date with recorded lectures and prescribed reading is one of the best things you can do to make sure you stay on top of everything. It ensures, when assessments come around, that you already have a general idea of the topic and can therefore focus on the actual assessment rather than starting from scratch.

Making a start to your assessments as soon as possible is also super important. I have previously been guilty of putting off essays for as long as I possibly could which resulted in me being under a huge amount of stress by the middle of the semester, with multiple essays due at once. Was the stress really worth it? In my opinion, not at all!  How hard could it be to make a start to something just one week earlier?

Last but definitely not least, I want to mention how beneficial it is to talk.  Whether it’s to your friends, classmates or tutors, it’s such a great thing to do, even more so now as we can’t see many others physically.  Most of us won’t have seen each other since in-person university teaching ended in March therefore I feel it’s so helpful to chat to other people about university or just life in general.  It makes you realise that even though you may feel alone during these tough times, you are definitely not; and you don’t have to be!