The final year of university is typically a time filled with anxiety of finishing three years of hard work, trying to secure good grades and a graduate job. This year has been so different from my previous preconceptions of what my final year would look like. Like the whole of the country, students have adapted to online learning and lecturers have worked tirelessly to ensure that teaching still continues to be delivered. The endless zoom calls and ‘breakout room’ activities seem like they are here to stay whether in academia or in work.
But with the news of lockdown slowly being lifted and with the first anniversary since the beginning of Lockdown #1, I have reflected on the past academic year and have found 5 key things that have actually helped me make the most of my final year at LSE:
1. The importance of a routine
During Lockdown #1 the sudden transition to online learning was a difficult one. The thought of working from home was a nice temporary thought, but not a permanent one. During my first year, I can remember how busy my typical day was and how I loved it. From walking to campus across Blackfriars Bridge, attending back-to-back lectures and classes from Old Building to 32 Lincolns Inn, meeting friends for lunch at the local Wasabi, going to Netball at Lincolns Inn, different society events then finally making it back to my accommodation.
Things have certainly changed, but with some changes, having a similar routine is possible even in a lockdown. Key parts of my routine are meditating, virtual book clubs, attending online events, joining Strava running clubs and engaging meaningfully. Such changes have made a positive impact on my daily lockdown routine and have made life feel more ‘normal’.
2. Engage in your interests
With all the time I spent at home there was too much time spent thinking. One thing I found myself doing more was reading for pleasure and delving into topics I really care about. In third year, the modules I study are more specialised and link specifically to my interests such as innovation and finance. By engaging with the LSE Events, LSE LSE and LSE Careers, there is so many events and opportunities to develop myself and learn. For example, attending Epstein Lectures with renowned Economic Historians discussing the effect of race on the US healthcare system interested me, especially in the wake of the racial inequities that were highlighted through the BLM movement. It is by listening to experts in the field across the world that I have felt more connected to my degree than ever before.
3. Be open minded
Remember the ‘breakout room’ activities I mentioned earlier? I would like to say that a year onwards I am more of a fan than a cynic. The breakout room facilitates that extra interaction with your peers that would otherwise not be possible with the standard lecture format. It is in these discussions that I can feel like I am in a classroom talking to my friends and discussing how much work we have to do or have those little chit-chats that have been so absent in our daily lockdown lives. I would say that being open-minded has been key to maintaining a rich and interesting student life.
4. Health is wealth
This is an important saying that has become one of my favourite mantras. There is a noticeable difference when, after my two hour Zoom seminar starting at 9am on a Tuesday, I would go for a walk or do some exercise. It is by punctuating my day with my “daily walk” and hitting my 10,000 steps goal that my mood in the afternoon is simultaneously boosted and I work so much better.
The mental toll of working online is universal but it is so important to take breaks and monitor your screen time. 7 hours a day on my laptop is relatively standard so do things to punctuate this and mitigate the negative effects. For instance, investing in some blue light reading glasses have made a huge yet subtle difference when reading online for me. It is important to look after your physical and mental health.
5. Change is inevitable – learn to adapt and enjoy the process
When I came to LSE, graduation was something I always thought about. Now that the time for me to leave LSE approaches steadily, I remind myself of the importance of enjoying the process. It is important to grasp all the opportunities available, whether it is catching a “zoom coffee” with a friend or attending that LSE event by a distinguished author on your reading list. All these experiences have enriched my LSE experience and I can fondly look back at my time saying I enjoyed all three years!