Wellbeing, Studying

1

This spring has been an unusual one. These exceptional circumstances have affected all of us, some more favorably than others. The situation is unfair. My thoughts have been with people who’ve suffered greatly and whose important life plans or sources of income have been reset, and with those who are experiencing a lot of uncertainty in this situation.

I especially want students to know that my sympathies lie with them. In order for students to make progress in their studies, it’s essential that they can reach all of their student services as well as teachers for help and fellow students for invaluable support. Help and support can be hard to come by for many people in today’s hectic world. When the world came to a halt this spring, allowing lots of people to have more time on their hands for once, we were stripped of many valuable everyday resources and support systems, and services had to be revamped. Students have had to cope with remote connections and whatever study space they have at home. The circumstances aren’t equal for all. There are restrictions even on peer support now that social distancing is required. Some are doing surprisingly well at studying remotely from home, but the situation has been debilitating for many. Internships that were crucial for people’s studies and jobs that would have provided some financial security have also vanished for some. The uncertainty of the whole situation definitely won’t make it any easier to focus on one’s studies.

Now, that I’ve managed to paint a grim picture of how the spring’s events have affected students, I want to turn your attention on the good things that may have come from all this, with the future in mind. I’m a 27-year-old millennial and a recent graduate of a higher education institution, so I’m accustomed to change, even when it’s frustrating. A personal example of this would be the time when I graduated from a vocational institution in 2013 with a media assistant’s degree, and some of the skills I had learned were already outdated when I received my degree. My HTML programming skills were insufficient after the world turned its eyes on the CSS programming language, instead. Hence, I’m used to tolerating change and reacting to rapidly changing situations because the world has evolved at an increasing rate throughout my life. I got to utilize this skill again this spring, when our project’s inclusive classes had to be hastily transferred over to remotely accessible media and my workspace moved from the office into my living room. This was a big change for a fledgling professional.

Many students undoubtedly understand what I’m talking about and have faced change in the past. Nevertheless, this spring has been a completely new ordeal. Next, I want to examine the future lessons we can learn from the situation.

WHAT VALUABLE INSIGHTS COULD YOU HAVE UNWITTINGLY PICKED UP THIS SPRING?

  • Reactionary skills for crisis situations

Maybe you were the one who studied the new guidelines carefully, followed the experts’ reliable instructions, and conveyed the information to your loved ones in a more clear and concise manner. Maybe you sent a Whatsapp voice message about the latest guidelines to those who didn’t have the time or the energy to listen to the broadcast. You may have introduced new points of view to the discussion and created a sense of calm amidst the information flood. Moving forward, you may remember that in a crisis, getting reliable information and remaining calm are of utmost importance.

  • Empathy

In following the media, I’ve noticed how many of us have been quick to help others in various ways: Someone put up a note in their apartment building’s bulletin board saying they can help elderly residents with their shopping, and another someone put a teddy bear plushy on their window sill to cheer up passers-by. It is a commendable skill to be able to be able to think of others under these uncertain circumstances that we’re all facing.

  • Self-compassion

This spring has really challenged us to listen to ourselves and to remember that our plans may fall apart due to reasons beyond our control. If you’ve been able to listen to yourself and allow yourself to simply be and accept failure, you have developed a valuable skill for the rest of your life. In my opinion, people in the working life could use more a compassionate approach to their own work, so it’s good to start learning it already as a student. Self-compassion can protect you from burning out, so it’s by no means a useless skill for soon-to-be professionals.

  • The means to recover

We often talk about recovery in our KUPLA (student well-being) project’s tutor training. The wider the range of recovery methods you can utilize, the more likely you are to recover. If you have energized yourself by socializing with friends on the town, heading out for recreational activities, or by going to the movies, you’ve now had to find new ways to relax. Therefore, you’ve learned more about recovery, and those skills are important for your mental well-being.

  • An understanding of politics and the society

Many of us who didn’t pay too much attention to news or politics in the past may have now found themselves eagerly waiting for a government press conference to start and educating themselves about the politics surrounding the state of emergency. The situation has taught us terms that many didn’t know before, such as state of emergency law, hybrid strategy, global pandemic, and the government’s decision-making power in relation to the president and expert parties. It’s easier to learn politics in practice, and now there’s been an opportunity to do so in order to understand the decision-making processes behind all these restrictions.

  • Working life skills acquired through gaming

On May 11, 2020, Yle published an interesting article about how gaming can develop important working life skills (Milsa Malin, 31: “Sain unelmieni työpaikan Simsin avulla” – Näin pelitaitosi voivat vaikuttaa urallasi). Now, more than ever, is a good time to try playing videogames or to revisit them. Gaming is a perfect example of how you can learn important and useful skills without knowing it, as long as the learning takes place around a pleasant activity.

  • Verbalizing your feelings

Over the course of the spring, you may have experienced new emotions that you didn’t recognize at first. Reflecting on these emotions and verbalizing them can help you understand yourself better and take care of your mental wellbeing in the process. You’ll have learned more about yourself and your needs if you’ve had to stop to think about what’s going on inside your head. All emotions are allowed, and processing them will help you accept them. Understanding negative emotions is less difficult when you know where they stem from.

  • Recognizing your own limits

As I was putting in the finishing touches on this text, I came across Paula Tiessalo’s blog piece for Yle. In it, she wants to remind this spring’s graduates that the academic world hasn’t been fair to them. I agree. It’s important to let go when the world is fighting you too hard. It’s essential to know when something’s not worth fighting for and when it’s best to stop in order to save your mental resources. It’s not a loss but a victory: you are brave to prioritize your own well-being and step away from the game. If this spring took away your chance to accomplish your goals, it’s not your fault. If you can recognize that, you will have replaced the loss with something valuable. As Tiessalo says, there’s great wisdom in knowing your own limits.

I’m sure there are countless other insights that I didn’t realize to include here or know how to put into words. I firmly believe that even if you don’t agree with any of the abovementioned points, you’ll have grown more as a person this spring than you would’ve expected.

Still, you don’t have to view this situation in a positive light if you don’t feel like it. Here’s my most important message to you, the reader: Stay strong. The situation is really unfair and unreasonable, but I hope you can pull through nevertheless. <3

 

If you’re feeling anxious about the situation, please contact:
Mieli ry’s crisis hotline in Finnish 09 2525 0111 – open at all times; in Swedish 09 2525 0112 – open 20 hours a day on weekdays (Mon–Fri); in Arabic and English 09 2525 0113 – open 20 hours a day on weekdays (Mon–Fri).
Sekasin chat, open daily all year round: Monday to Friday 09:00–24:00 and 15:00–24:00 on Saturdays and Sundays.

References
Yle Uutiset 24.5.2020: Paula Tiessalo: Tämä on koulusta valmistuville epäreilu kevät
Yle Uutiset 11.5.2020: Milsa Malin, 31: “Sain unelmieni työpaikan Simsin avulla” – Näin pelitaitosi voivat vaikuttaa urallasi 

Milla Ruuska


KUPLA-hankkeen koulutussuunnittelija / utbildningsplanerare för projektet KUPLA / Education Coordinator at project KUPLA
milla.ruuska@ehyt.fi

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