Written by: Tayyaba Hanif, Senior at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), FLI Program Participant

The Fall 2020 semester has been the most hectic semester in my entire college career. Not only are we in the middle of a global pandemic, but students are expected to create quality work remotely. This can be both a good and bad thing. Although I am appreciative that I did not have to commute all the way to UIC for classes this semester, learning from home was no walk in the park. I lost focus a lot of the time and it was hard to concentrate when I was constantly surrounded by my family in a small space. I learned a lot from learning remotely this semester and I have a few tips on how to refocus if you find yourself slacking.

Make a Schedule
One of the biggest things that helped me was creating a schedule. I usually just create a mental checklist of everything I need to do, but I realized writing it down made me more likely to actually stick to it. I love checking things off on a to-do list! It just makes me feel accomplished. I blocked out times for specific assignments and to study. Since everything was online, I couldn’t give up technology completely. I needed structure, so I told my mom to take my phone away (I was spending hours and hours on TikTok) and keep it until I showed her my assignments.

Create a Workspace
I stopped working on my bed. Every time I started an assignment or watched a lecture on my bed, I fell asleep. Either that or I just ended up getting so tired that I stopped doing work. This had become a bad habit at the beginning of the semester, so I decided it needed to stop. My friends were struggling with the same thing. I decided to make my own studying space. It had to be a designated area where I did nothing but schoolwork. I tried using my kitchen table at first but doubling that space’s use did not work out. I ended up locking myself in my parent’s room and using their desk. This helped me create a setting for productivity. By sitting there, I was able to keep myself alert and awake.

Reward Yourself
In order to motivate myself, I set up a rewards system. Staring at a screen all day is not good for your eyes. I bought myself a pair of blue light glasses so I could make myself a little more comfortable. I made my study space more personal by getting items that were decorative and aesthetically pleasing.

Make a Support System
It is important to have a good support system. I found comfort in creating group chats (GroupMe, Facebook Messenger, etc.) with people from my online classes and checking in with them every few days. It was nice knowing that we were all struggling together. They were able to give me moral support and we actually did email our professors a few times letting them know that the work they assigned was too much. This allowed for easier communication lines.

Care for Your Mental Health
As we go into spring semester, I just want to emphasize the importance of taking care of your mental health during these trying times. Like I said before, we are in the middle of a global pandemic and everything is new to us. Take a break. Breathe. Talk to someone if you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious and please remember you are not alone. We are all doing our best. 

If this is your first college semester, I know this is not what you were expecting, but it will get better. This is a good opportunity to try new things and gain new experiences. I would encourage you to talk to your professors and TAs about how they plan on running the semester and contact them as soon as you have a problem.

Check your college’s counseling services for more information. If you attend UIC, you can see them here. We have another blog post about COVID-19 Resources for college students as well!

Come back to the Future Blog for more articles on college and career success!