It’s Thursday morning 9:25 am, I open my laptop, log into BlackBoard (our electronic learning environment) and join the virtual classroom of today. Class starts at 9:30 and I am greeted by the webcam screen of our teacher who is sitting in his home office. Sitting in my pajamas accompanied by my breakfast I follow the lecture. Every now and then, my classmates ask a question and it’s nice to hear their voice. After an hour we have a small break, and I make myself a cup of tea while chatting with my classmates in our WhatsApp group.
My name is Marloes Otter and in September I started my master Energy4Society at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences.
A few weeks ago, all of our lives were thrown upside down and the things that we saw as normal are now impossible – such as going to class and studying in the library. Due to governmental measures the Hanze University of Applied Sciences canceled lessons and exams until the 1st June. However, despite these strange times my study continues and thus I follow all my classes online and study from home. This blog gives you a glimpse into my life as a student during the Corona Crisis, how I study but also keep trying to live my student life as much as possible.
Studying at home
Studying at home was never something I did since I always studied either in the university library or at school, so for me, studying at home certainly takes some time to get used to. I live in a student house with three other girls, and it can get noisy with everyone being home. Also, my room is relatively small and I therefore need to study in the living room which is far from ideal.
I have 3 courses in this block, and I follow the lectures digitally from home. To follow a class, we have to log into our electronic learning environment, called Blackboard, and join the digital classroom. The teachers are able to share PowerPoints presentations and other files, which enables them to teach and present the content.
To prevent people from talking at the same time, the program has a tool that allows for someone to digitally ‘raise their hand’. The digital classroom also has a chat in which we often talk or ask questions.
My master mostly involves group assignments, of which some had to be adapted and changed to fit the circumstances. Most of my assignments involve practical research such as conducting interviews or surveys and are changed to being more theoretical as conducting this practical research is more challenging when everyone is supposed to stay inside. Working in project groups in this situation is a challenge as we often struggle with different time zones, miscommunications and connection problems. Before, we would simply meet at the university before or after class. We had to change our way of working and communicating. To try and keep an overview of our group work we send daily updates about individual developments and progress through our WhatsApp group chat to ensure everyone is up to date. Additionally, we occasionally meet in Collaborate – a version of skype in BlackBoard – in which we have discussions and brainstorm sessions.
Student life in the Corona crisis
Before the corona crisis, I maintained a healthy balance between my social life, staying active and studying. However, things I used to do, such as hanging out with friends or going to the gym, are not possible anymore. Social distancing can get quite lonely and being home all day can get suffocating and boring. But instead of giving those things up, I tried to maintain such activities as much as possible while sticking to the rules.
As social distancing can become quite lonely it is important to try and maintain social contact despite it not always being in the form of physical contact. As I live with three girls we do try to organize activities together such as eating together and socializing with each other. I also try to video call friends on a weekly basis, while this was something new for me at first as I prefer face-to-face contact I realized that given the circumstances this was the best solution. Occasionally I will also go for a walk with one friend with a meter and a half distance between us.
I set a goal for myself to have at least one physical activity a day. Research shows that working out that and being active has a lot of health benefits. It improves your mental health and mood but also helps you think and learn better. The gym might be closed but there are other ways to stay active. I often go for a walk or run outside, while keeping distance. Additionally, there is an entire universe of home workouts (Yoga with Adriene, the BodyCoach and others) on YouTube. In my class, the girls and I started a challenge to increase motivation to stay active. We have a point system, and once you completed a workout of choice, you send a selfie in the group chat as proof.
You can choose to spend most of your time in bed and binge-watching shows, but in my opinion this is the time to try new hobbies or rekindle your interest for an old hobby. Examples are: cooking, painting, following an online course or learn a new language. Besides spending time studying, I spend most of my time in the kitchen. Cooking and baking contributes to my stress relief and also clears my head. I love to explore and experiment with different cuisines and different recipes. And once my bananas are ripe, I turn them into a delicious and lovely banana bread.
The latest announcement from Hanze means that until June 1st I will study and follow classes from home. While the resources and facilities are there to continue my education, nothing compares to following class with your fellow students in an actual classroom. Block 3 is coming to an end and I hope that despite this situation I am able to complete my courses and finish this academic year.