I’m in the middle of my last summer as a student. If everything goes as planned, I’ll be a Master of Social Sciences a year from now. I find motivation in the limitations placed on the duration of degree studies, running out of student financial aid months, and being somewhat over this stage in my life. The time I’ve spent as a student has given me a lot, but I feel that almost a decade spent at the university is quite enough.

To improve my chances of getting my master’s degree, I decided to spend the summer studying. It was a good idea, but the execution has been less than optimal. In the spring, I realized that studying remotely from home is not for me in the slightest. By Midsummer, it was clear that it didn’t change during the summer.

I miss having a sense of belonging. To achieve it, it’s not enough to exchange a few emails with professors or to read news bulletins on the university intranet. Remote studies are lonely and monotonous, as there’s currently only one way to complete any course. Hence, my masterplan is to write essays all summer long. My university has decided to stick to remote studies for the first fall period, as well, so we’ll keep studying like this at least for a few more months.

Sure, there are positive aspects to studying remotely, especially for us, who are located in a different city than our higher education institutions. You can attend lectures just fine over a video connection, and seminar meetings are running without a hitch over the internet. When there’s less mandatory commuting, there’s more time to study and recover from the workload. I hope that the remote teaching methods that have proven successful are here to stay. However, I do feel that we should think of a way to incorporate more than one method for completing courses remotely in the future. Even when studying at home, people have different ways of learning.

Everyone has certainly done their best to juggle the challenges that were thrown at us this spring, and I believe that higher education institutions are indeed reflecting on what could be improved moving forward. In order to be a contributing member of society myself (and to eventually earn my master’s degree), I have strived to get my remote studies adequately organized, despite all the surrounding uncertainties. My arrangements are sometimes successful and sometimes a little lackluster, and the results definitely aren’t the best they could be, but it’s still possible to keep progressing slowly this way.

I don’t think any list of tips by itself will make anyone’s life easier, but the thought processes that they can inspire may help you find your own way to get stuff done. I put together a list of the five most important things that have helped me with my remote studies, and I truly hope that you can find some use for them, one way or another. The list is filled with truisms or “no-brainers” because that’s where most of life’s most valuable treasures are hidden.

1. Don’t compromise on recovery. Studies are only one part of your daily life. Even when studying from home, it’s important to balance out your days with something other than reading exam literature or doing writing assignments. It’s easier for me to ensure recovery in the summer because summer naturally feeds into some key aspects for bolstering my recovery: nature’s verdure, evenings with plenty of light, and warm-enough water to swim in natural bodies of water. A bike ride and an interesting podcast are always refreshing, even after a taxing day.

2. See other people. Following this particular tip this year has been at times impossible and at other times a process filled with special precautions. Minimizing social interactions was absolutely necessary due to the coronavirus, but it put a dent on my well-being. Video calls were a source of solace when staying away from loved ones, but they couldn’t replace spending time together face-to-face. However, even with safe distances, hand hygiene, and other precautions in place, it’s been wonderful seeing friends in the park and on picnics in June. It’s much easier to take your mind off your studies when there’s other people around.

3. Change the scenery. It can be difficult to focus while at home, and different environments can help you keep your thoughts centered on your studies, as well as to steer clear of them when it’s necessary. As I already mentioned, studying from home was not a good fit for me at all. Then again, parks, libraries, and even the dock at our summer cottage worked much better.

4. Set realistic goals. Don’t make plans to tackle 30 credits over the summer, unless it’s actually possible for you. Reasonable goals are much more easily divided into smaller chunks so that you can experience more moments of success. Always plan according to your own resources and limitations, and be prepared to make changes if the original pace proves to be more than you can handle.

5. Make a schedule. The calendar is a student’s best friend, once you learn how to make the most of it. Plan in advance the days when you should study, do other things, or focus on relaxation. Keep the working hours in a study day at a sensible level. No can maintain a proper work focus when toiling away around the clock. Even if you are going to spend the summer studying, make a conscious decision to take a full week off or to spend a couple of long weekends vacationing. Personally, my study days are usually about six hours long. I only start studying after lunch because I’m not a morning person. For the remainder of this summer, I’ve scheduled one road trip and one extended trip to a summer cottage, without my laptop or a pile of books, I might add.

Even with these guidelines, there are days when things don’t work out. Some days just refuse to let you have it your way. That’s life, and it’s all right. It’s likely that I’ll never learn to enjoy studying from home, but it’s still manageable. A tactic proven efficient in (figurative) battle is to take care of yourself and to stay in touch with things that give you purpose.

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