(Image: Unsplash/Daria Nepriakhi)

We’re hearing a lot about people working from home — and parents doing remote learning from home with their children — but we’re hearing much less about university students, particularly international students, who are studying in Australia during lockdown.

There were 500,000 international students in Australia when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Australia. Today 15% of students are stuck living on campuses due to the fact that restrictions prohibit them from returning home, while a further 85% of students find themselves trying to study from home, The Guardian reports

There is limited support available to the international students who remain in Australia, and who have been asked to return home if they cannot support themselves. For both international and Australian students, the COVID-19 pandemic can evoke its own particular type of panic; this is, largely, the most financially unstable demographic, who now find themselves trying to prepare for a very unstable working world. 

For the students out there who are reading this, this is understandably a very stressful time, but it may equip you with resilience you did not even know you were capable of. If you can continue to study from home, keep swimming. 

Here are 10 tips for students studying from home: 

  1. Get a calendar and write down everything that is ahead of you
  2. Get a clock for your desk
  3. Map out your day in as much detail as you can
  4. Maintain your social studies virtually 
  5. Take breaks every 40 minutes
  6. Go outside, every single day 
  7. Avoid too many screens outside of study 
  8. Avoid too much caffeine or energy drinks
  9. Have daily rituals to look forward to and punctuate the week
  10. Don’t let “it” get on top of you 

Get a calendar and write down everything that is ahead of you

Foresight is always your friend. Map. It. Out. What you know about cannot hurt you.

Get a calendar that shows you the full month ahead and add in every single assignment, exercise, test or tutorial. Whatever it is, if you know it’s coming up, there are no excuses to bury your head in the sand and avoid it until the last minute.

In a world where there are literally no distractions, other than that low sinister hum of impending doom, there is so much that you can get out of the way now. So look ahead in time. 

Get a clock for your desk

No, before you protest, your phone is not an adequate clock to keep track of study slots. You go to check the time, then you’re suddenly on Instagram, then Facebook, then WhatsApp, then Twitter, and then looking back at pictures of that great holiday back in 2016.

Put your phone in a drawer and get a clock for your desk. There is nothing that helps with better time-keeping than time itself. 

Map out the day in as much detail as you can 

Whether you’re more like Monica or Phoebe from Friends on the control freak scale, mapping out your day in as much detail as possible is paramount to getting what you want to get done, did.

Map out every slot of reading, writing and breaks to keep you on track.

Note: be realistic. You will not be able to complete an assignment well in one hourly slot. Be easy on yourself! 

Maintain your social studies virtually 

If you are someone who works better in a group, it is going to be very hard to maintain isolation both in general and while studying. So if there are certain days and times in a week that you are used to meeting up with friends to study, maintain this.

Get a Zoom meeting going. Even if it seems odd at first to silently have one another on a laptop screen, it may help you to stay focused and motivated. Staying connected and knowing what your study buddies are up to may also help you to think outside of the box and tap into your creativity.

Take breaks every 40 minutes

Rome was not built in a day. Whether you are trying to write a 1000-word assignment or a 10,000-word thesis, you need to rest your brain. One of the biggest study errors is leaving it all to the last minute and then expecting too much of yourself. This is a sure method for despair.

Whether or not you feel fatigued, take a 20-minute break every 40 minutes to stretch your body and relax your mind. This 40-on, 20-off method is the most efficient way of keeping you focused throughout the day. 

Go outside, every single day 

Fresh air is your friend. You cannot expect to thrive in a stuffy room all day. Depending on if you are a morning, day or evening person, pick a time when you know you will require some extra TLC and get out there.

Whether you have time for a brisk 20-minute walk or a two-hour hike, getting enough fresh air each day is extremely important for filtering out the brain junk and keeping your concentration levels high. 

Avoid too many screens outside of study 

While the temptation may be there to bounce from your phone to laptop intermittently throughout the day, aim to stay off your phone for at least two recreational hours (two hours when you are not studying) per day.

Now is, of course, the time to stay social and maintain contact with loved ones, especially if you are far away from them, but it is still important to take time to fully switch off.

Put on a podcast, paint a picture, re-decorate your room — do something, anything, that does not involve spending your social energy during this already draining period. 

Avoid too much caffeine or energy drinks

Exams, cramming, and last-minute tweaks to assignments are enough to make the most level headed of us jittery. Do not exasperate this by overloading with coffee and energy drinks.

If you need to keep some of these habits for the remainder of the school year, drink them as you should consume alcohol — with lots of water in between each round! If you can cut down, try peppermint tea between coffees or sparkling water as a replacement for energy drinks.

Have daily rituals to look forward to and punctuate the week

While captions on social media like “what day is it?” have definitely gotten old at this point, they still do, unfortunately, ring true. One week can feel like one day, or one year, depending on what you are doing with your time.

To maintain a firm grasp on time (and reality), consider implementing little habits or rituals into each day. For instance, on Monday, you could walk that particular route; on Tuesday, you could call that friend. It could also be playing a particular video game or doing some pampering with a facemask, whatever tickles your fancy.

Make sure it’s something you enjoy doing and it should help to define your week. 

Don’t let “it” get on top of you 

While this advice may seem about as actionable as “stay safe” or “chin up”, it is still an important to not let “it”, whatever it may be, get on top of you. If you are feeling extremely overwhelmed, know you are not alone in this. If you are struggling to get your course work done, know that your lecturers and tutors are there to get the best out of you as a student. 

Talk to someone and whatever it is will become instantly more manageable. They say your university or college years are some of the best years of your life. Let us hope 2020 is just one of those years that has truthfully gone haywire.

Right now, this might seem like the hardest thing you’ll ever have to go through. University, and the stress that comes with it, is hard enough without a pandemic, but do take solace in the fact you are not missing out on anything while studying, and there are no distractions to take you away from getting what you have to do, done. You’ve got this!

Read: Coronavirus in Australia | Morrison’s three-stage plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions