How I Studied in Berkeley During the COVID-19 Quarantine

Halfway into my spring semester, chaos ensued and the Bay Area went into a shelter-in-place order. Words like ‘social distancing’ and ‘quarantine’ became common topics, and students across the world were making the shift to online classes. This situation was unprecedented and could have caused severe disruptions to my study and career plans.

But here are the ways I coped.

Making the Most Out of Online Classes

The first thing I did was to try to get into the right mindset for online classes. Since everything was virtual, it was so tempting to just roll out of bed five minutes before classes start and switch on Zoom.

zoom meeting on laptop
Weekly Zoom Sessions

Obviously, this wasn’t the best productivity practice and I slowly figured out which study methods worked for me. From personal experience, and after talking to other international students studying here, I discovered that personal habits influenced productivity. It could include designating a study area, getting dressed and ready in the mornings even if you’re staying home, listening to some chill lo-fi beats during study time and so many other things.

I even set aside some time before my virtual class to go over the course agenda for the day. This included reviewing the learning objectives and completing any of the assigned textbook readings, which helped me clarify some points with the instructor and lent to a more interactive atmosphere during class.

Mimicking a Semblance of a Schedule

Studying from home definitely threw my daily schedule for a loop. So I took out a day planner and scheduled everything—and I mean, everything.

girl writing in a schedule
Sticking to a Schedule

I mapped out each hour of my day, including classes, study hours, meal and snack breaks, daily chores like laundry and dishes, self-improvement activities like learning new things, reading books and the news, social media, fitness exercises, and lastly, a good night’s sleep of eight hours. I used this video on bullet journaling (BuJo) and Pinterest for inspiration on scheduling. I made sure not to schedule multiple tasks together. From personal experience, multitasking NEVER works. To focus on one activity at a time, I tried this thing called Pomodoro Technique, which is when you set a timer or alarm clock for 25 minutes and focus on just one task during that interval (called a Pomodoro). After each Pomodoro, you can take a five-minute break to do what helps you relax, which for me was scrolling Instagram. This kept my sanity intact as much as possible, given the situation.

Passing the Time Best as I Can
chocolate chip cookies
Baking for the First Time

The thing I miss the most right now is the “Bay Area Livin’,” the scenery, the events, the sunsets, and most of all, the people. Virtual hangouts through video conferencing is the new in-thing now and social media engagement has reached unprecedented levels. There’s now the tendency for peers to outcompete each other in productivity. For example, many are signing up for additional useful online classes, learning to bake banana bread and cookies, learning a new language—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’d like to think I’ve struck a neat balance between productivity and Netflix. Since this is a pandemic, a little binge watching is definitely needed to take a break from gruesome reality.

Not Panicking About Job Searches

After finishing two semesters at Berkeley Global in the Professional Certificate program, some may become eligible for Optional Practical Training which allows international students to work in the U.S. for a year! What seemed like such an exciting time has been mired in doubts and uncertainties as rumours about hiring freezes and recession run rampant. However, on the positive side of things, platforms such as LinkedIn have seen an outpouring of support from recruiters and other job influencers. Many genuinely want to help as much as they can for recent graduates and for people who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. This time actually helped me make more meaningful connections in my professional network than ever before. I’m not saying it’s easier to find jobs now, but it has taught me things that will help me in my future job search and throughout my professional life.

Making Greater Use of University Resources

Suffice to say, the campus shutting down was a huge loss to me, since I only had one semester to experience the Berkeley culture. The Berkeley Global departments and students continue to come up with new ways to still feel connected and occupied. Staff continue to organize virtual student activities such as yoga classes, crafts sessions, trivia days, etc.

A Virtual Library

Although many students have also signed up for more online classes in order to make use of any downtime and are utilizing the wealth of information in the online library system, our biggest resource has been our relationship with our class instructors. The quarantine and the subsequent shift to online instruction brought a strange sort of closeness to class interactions. This meant that if one person talked on the video conference, it was impossible not to pay attention. Sometimes it almost felt like a special one-on-one interaction when you spoke with the professor.

Outside of the class, the interaction continued through emails suggesting additional content that you can find online to support the material you’re studying  and providing general thoughts and feedback about the course. It’s a great way to build your professional network and take advantage of working with these industry professionals. They are the people who can give you specific insights and direction depending on your study objectives.

Working Toward a Healthy Mind and Body

Since the shutdown included gyms, all signs pointed to a sedentary lifestyle stuck behind screens.

girl doing yoga
Yoga from Home

It was that way for about two weeks, but the longer the shutdown goes on, the more determined I become to make something out of the time. I was doing plenty to exercise my mind, but I also started setting aside some time in my daily schedule for fitness routines. YouTube is a great resource for at-home workouts. For more specialized/personalized routines I picked a fitness app that best suited my needs and budget and stuck to it. I also found some great guided meditation and other relaxation techniques online. This video is a great starting point, if you’re curious.

It’s definitely not been easy, but we have found ways to make the best out of a terrible situation. It’s a testament to the collaborative efforts between Berkeley Global staff and students and the use of technology that we have experienced little disruption to the Berkeley Global educational experience.