In December, Stage 2 Business Psychology student Can Genc wrote about how he has found positives amid new challenges.
The majority of students would say that a pandemic is not the most ideal situation. I believe students may have had a difficult transition to how they are receiving their education now. A typical day in the life of current undergraduate students is to wake up, some cooking, maybe a lecture or two, attempting weekly readings for modules you claimed would have started a week earlier, and some leisure time (maybe more than there should be). However, there are significant aspects of the new ‘normal’ that haven’t been considered.
Yes – the pandemic has brought many challenges but, many new opportunities have arisen. There have been opportunities for new skills to be gained, and for personal development. Maybe it has been a time where reflection has been greater than ever before: thinking about yourself, how you could improve, how to bounce back from a pandemic, and how to stand out. I’ll share some of my personal experiences to give some critical perspective.
Starting my second year in September was interesting, moving into a new house I share with two other housemates, doing the weekly groceries, drinking some beers, and reuniting with friends was all great. This was followed by learning new software such as Microsoft Teams to view lectures and seminars, followed by introductions to new modules while chatting to some new faces. There. I acquired a few new skills. I can safely say I know how to join a virtual meeting, and also remember how to mute. Nobody likes the one person who forgets to mute! All jokes aside, students have gained experience of joining, and contributing to virtual meetings and organising and collaborating through them too; these are good skills to have. Just think about it, there has never been a time where we’ve had to come together as a collective to stick to a solid schedule completely virtually. Some will see this as a negative but you have to try to find the positive aspects of new challenges.
Moving into October, I became more used to the routine. Sticking to a schedule from your bedroom is very difficult, so congratulations to all that have managed to do so. A schedule does make everything easier to manage and all students can now claim they (hopefully) manage their time well. Another skill! Good time management helps us to be punctual, consistent, and driven. These are all skills employers look for in potential job or internship applications. This was a challenge and not everything goes to plan but, improvement is always a good first step.
Another skill I learnt in October, was communicating effectively through emails. My advice is to re-read it, re-read it again, watch your tone, and always be respectful. No one wants to receive a bad email, and it also makes you look unprofessional. See – time went by so quickly and I gained some more valuable skills!
Then came November, when things started getting messy. Assignments, deadlines, tests, projects, and more. You name it, I probably had it! Nonetheless, here I learnt another important skill. Study smart. Now, studying and staying on top of things is not always the easiest task especially when all you really want is socialise, but it is possible to do both. This skill was introduced to me from completing the International Foundation Programme and was great for times like these. Going through mountains of academic journals and studies by reading each line word for word is not the way to go; look at the abstract, identify the thesis/hypothesis/prediction, analyse the discussion, look at the conclusion and finally decide “Is this paper going to help me with my assignment”. This approach also rests on skills in analysis, concentration, maybe some initiative, and more. But it really is essential. You won’t have time to look closely at every study while juggling assignments, the key really is to balance your effort and time effectively.
Finally, December has arrived, and term one is coming to an end. It’s the final stretch, and the time to muster the motivation to finish strong! While this isn’t a skill as such, pushing yourself to develop and to achieve your goals could be more important than anything. Aim high but embrace challenges and difficulties on the way, because there will definitely be some. I have to say that doing a practical research lab completely online was not easy. Confusion, maybe some anger, and ultimately relief, once the work is submitted, are all very normal feelings.
This cohort of students has not had the most typical university experiences, neither have the academics staff – no one has. But personally, the pandemic has given me the opportunity to learn all of these new skills. The future holds many exciting opportunities and I hope that others would say the same, particularly if they were not previously aware of this great achievement.
I would like to thank all of the staff at the University of Kent for their constant support throughout these unprecedented times, and for some of the skills I could not have gained without them.