Integrating Virtual Learning Lessons in ‘Real Life’

One aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic that I find fascinating is the commonality of the situation. Such that every single person in this world, whether they are a parent, a child, a student, a business professional, or a frontline worker, experienced a ‘hiccup’ in their routine expectations. Personally speaking, the pandemic gave me an extra year with my family and best friend while also showing me that I really enjoyed the flexibility and independence in my study. When UC sent students home in March 2020, I went back to my family in Dubai and did a full year of online classes there with 8 hours of time difference. 

August 2020. My first day of my sophomore year in Dubai.

Here are some lessons I learned: 

  1. Every so often when you get overwhelmed, it is a good idea to reflect on your priorities. 
    • For most international students, they come to UC without knowing anyone at all and so they make all of their decisions. In my first year, I was on my own as well, but when I went home, the family dynamics definitely shifted. You are home but still are ‘a college student’ and so you still have all your academic and professional obligations. In addition, you are also a ‘daughter/son’ and so there might be family events, house chores, and such that you must factor into your schedule. Since I was home while also doing online classes, it was much easier to spend time with my family. While now being back on campus without my parents, I set aside time to communicate with them and it honestly ends up putting things into perspective. Just take it day by day and do your best!
  2. Make it a point to find your optimal productive period 
    • Since we have all been going to school, there has been a routine established for us. We come back at around 4 pm and have dinner then work on what we need to do; the afternoon is our only time to do so since we start so early. In university though, there is flexibility that comes along with your independence as a college student. When I was back home and had my classes late in the evening, I realized that I was so much more productive because I had the whole day to prepare, spend time with my family, read, workout, and such. I was worried at first that I might not have been able to stay up for my classes, but it was quite the opposite and I wasn’t tired as if I just woke up. Unfortunately, coming back to UC with in person classes didn’t allow me to continue that routine because I have lectures and labs starting at 8 in the morning. Instead, I know myself and I actually feel more productive at night when I have a cup of coffee/tea, light a candle, get comfortable in a sweater at my desk, and focus on what I need to get done. I would highly suggest you find out your preferences for yourself without over-relying on the ‘typical’ best time to study- since it is a lot more personal than a scientific paper can allude to.
  3. Get comfortable speaking
    • The small lecture classes or labs that I had completely online required our cameras on the whole class. I completely acknowledged the pros and cons of this ‘mandate’; however, it is a great tool of accountability and it does build up your confidence (especially during the pandemic). Most extracurricular/ professional meetings were also held virtually and there you had to speak up if you had any questions. You might be thinking “well if you were in a room with these people, you would also have to speak up”, but I can tell you it’s different. Face-to-face interactions are mainly based on body language and cues that facilitate conversation; whether that be friend-to-friend or mentee-mentor. When online, there aren’t many cues and often it is more about reading facial expressions and gaining the confidence to speak your mind (in all contexts). From virtual interactions, I have learned that preparation and practice will get you comfortable enough to execute a successful conversation when it’s time to meet in-person. 
  4. Spend your time doing what you enjoy
    • Being a pre-med at heart, university, to me, meant combining my desire to be a clinical volunteer at a hospital and obtaining the knowledge I need to apply to medical school. My first semester (fall 2019) I interviewed and was trained as a clinical volunteer at Cincinnati Children’s, and I only got to do a few shifts before the pandemic started and everything was halted. For that year I was home, I wasn’t able to be in a hospital; and so that is how I came to discover CABVI and their need for more broadcast volunteers. The opportunity was, and still is, completely virtual and flexible, but it still makes a huge difference to their mission. I am so glad that I interviewed and got to start my own show because besides being able to do what I love – read – I am also able to educate and help others despite their visual impairments. Being back at UC, I have not wasted a moment sitting around and thankfully I am back in the hospital, in addition to broadcasting, doing what I am passionate about. COVID has affected each of us differently, but as we all recover together, I urge you not to waste time ‘thinking’, but instead act! 

I hope these tips sparked some ideas of your own and I wish you the best of luck. 

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