Studying from home: student experiences


Studying at home: Kelly Whitehead, Rhiannon Oakhill, Grace Peart, Michael Antoniou, Andy Ung, Thomas Sutherland, Yacoub Amer, and Vanessa Lemes Do Nascimento ​

This week a range of College of Medicine and Public Health students shared their experiences of how they’re managing during this pandemic. There are of course many things that we all miss and probably won’t take for granted again, but the experiences below demonstrate how resilient and adaptive we can be to changing conditions. Special thanks to the students who got in touch, and for sharing their experiences, strategies and hot tips for staying sane.

Jumana Mazid, Northern Territory Medical Program, MD3

The biggest challenge for me has been spending more time at home. I miss spending time outdoors with friends, enjoying a meal at my favourite café, the local markets and more. Having more time at home does have its positives though: I spend more time with my pets and have also been able to focus on some neglected hobbies. Although I miss attending classes in person, I do not miss being unable to bring food into the lecture room. Now I can now enjoy my snacks and lecture at the same time!

Rhiannon Oakhill, Flinders NT, MD3

I’m very fortunate that my placements are still continuing so I’m thankful for the regularity and structure that provides, as as well as the opportunity to see some of my peers and people who aren’t my housemates!

The days I am at home I have been struggling with the lack of structure so I set myself little goals for the day and study particular things or complete aspects of an assignment, which I’ve found really helpful.

I live in an apartment overlooking Darwin Harbour and one of my favourite things about studying from home is that I have so much more time to appreciate the view!

Just rubbing it in… Darwin Harbour at dusk

Tom Sutherland, Paramedic Science, 1st year

When the drastic change of COVID-19 changed all our lives I came close to losing my way, but I have found a way to succeed over the years at uni by almost overdoing it – being last to leave the computer room is a great feeling for me! So adapting to this completely different way of learning with no front row, no weekly face-to-face conversations with my lecturer, tutor, or topic coordinator was difficult … but I have continued my philosophy of being the “last to leave”, and I watch lectures not once, not twice but as many times as it takes on a laptop to get the result. I am putting in close to double the study hours I was before for a similar output of work, and it is so worth it. I have motivated myself, my self-efficacy has moved to a level I did not know was there and for the first time in my student life I feel empowered to not only succeed but to be a great scholar.

Andy Ung, Student on Placement in Naracoorte, MD3

It has been an interesting experience as a medical student on placement in the context of a pandemic. There have been plenty of new learning opportunities, i.e. being a part of COVID-19 protocols, running flu clinics, and Telehealth.

With the shift to online teaching, I have had access to a greater variety of resources through Zoom which I would not normally be able to attend, i.e. Registrar Training and Intern Teaching. These sessions have been extremely insightful for students.

I do miss getting together with my peers on a weekly basis from the other GGT regions but Zoom catch-ups aren’t too bad with B.Y.O living room.

Grace Peart, Biotechnology, 3rd year

Working from home has been both a challenge and a time for relaxing and resetting. The biggest challenge I faced was moving home to the country, meaning adjusting to having little-to-no internet for signing into classes and researching. Leaving my friends and flatmates was also a huge and upsetting factor, as I was used to living with and seeing them every day, so adjusting to suddenly not being able to see them at all was difficult. Being with my family has been an upside, and really helped to manage the stress of change.

The vital thing for me to maintain motivation has been to ensure I keep my workspace tidy, and to stick to a crude schedule of my ‘usual’ Uni timetable, creating a sense of normality. I have also found it important to take time to go for walks through the garden, and to spend a chunk of my day with family members and/or pets, to clear my head and reset.

Yacoub Amer, Bachelor of Medical Science, 2nd year

My greatest initial concern about moving to online only was that I’d miss out on the practical application of concepts taught in lectures. Therefore, I was pleasantly relieved after completing practicals for MMED2931 on LtKura Cloud, which allows us to interact with data and apply our knowledge of relevant concepts to practical situations at home just as we would have done in person.

Time previously spent in traffic or looking for a parking spot is now additional time that I have been trying to use for walks, which serve to replace the physical activity I was getting while walking around campus. This daily exercise and fresh air help me to stay calm, energized and productive throughout the day.

Vanessa Lemes Do Nascimento, Master of Biotechnology

Lets begin with what I most like about studying online:

  • I can have a cappuccino (my favourite drink) whenever I want and I am not spending money on it anymore
  • I can enjoy my sacred space – I have set up the spare room as a Zen office space
  • And now I have time to do more meditation and look after my garden – I’m also a plant lover 🌻

Vanessa’s calming home office space

The biggest challenge for me is how to survive with husband around 24 hours a day! Where have my “girls nights out” gone?

All kidding aside, I’d say the challenges are:

  • to keep focussed
  • to keep on diet
  • to study by myself – I would love to have a group of study or tutor

Some tips that work for me:

  • get organised – I use a whiteboard and calendar to remind me of activities and due dates
  • check emails
  • set an alarm … and stick to it! Waking up at the same time every day allows me to get my meditation on, have a good breakfast and start the day in a good way
  • get inspired with motivational things – bring in live plants, write or print motivational phrases/ images, filter out noise and if I’m not feeling well, I remind myself that it’s ok not to be ok and tomorrow is another day.

Kelly Whitehead, Biotechnology, 3rd year

The best thing about uni at home is not having to wake up early to get ready and get to uni. You just wake up and class is right there. Additionally I feel like there is more support for assignments as many collaborate/drop in sessions have been given and it’s really easy to pop in and get an answer. Whereas before you would have had to be on campus at the right time to schedule a meeting, or email and this forced online transition has made that easier.

The biggest challenge I have had to overcome is that I find it difficult to stay focussed and learn by watching a lecture video. I have overcome this by making sure I’m in the right mindset and taking a break to reset when needed. My best hot tip for working at home is to plan your day. Write a list of what you want to accomplish that day and schedule out the best time to work through all the activities.

Michael Antoniou, Bachelor of Science in the Molecular Bioscience Specialisation, 3rd year

Moving to studying online felt very awkward at first, but I’ve come up with a few tips to stay motivated:

  • Set-up a comfortable workspace where you can work with minimal distractions
  • Make lists of tasks that need to be completed each day. Remember to not be hard on yourself if work doesn’t go to plan; schedules can be readjusted
  • Take time to rest: having a productive day is good but so is self-care
  • Reach out to teachers: if you are struggling they can help!
  • Working from home can be hard and everyone’s home environment isn’t the same, so sometimes getting out of the house for a walk or phone call with a friend can help.

The biggest challenge throughout this change was the fact that the new Animal Crossing game got released at the same time. Trying to focus on work and not play constantly was very hard!

Just do the best you can do and be proud of any accomplishments made throughout the day.

Rebecca Coffey, Mt Gambier, MD3

The biggest change for us as medical students is having quite a few of our scheduled sessions cancelled, due to specialists not travelling to Mount Gambier from Adelaide, or simply wanting to decrease the number of people in consults. However, we have been staying involved where we can, including continuing to be involved with GP phone consultations. It certainly is a different experience.

My husband lives in Victoria so he hasn’t been able to visit which has been an additional challenge for me personally, but we are managing. Mostly I am grateful that we have been able to continue our placement as much as possible, and that my husband, a farmer, is also able to continue working, so overall we should come out alright on the other side of all this.

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