Unprecedented. Unmotivated. Confused.
Those were the words swirling around in a cacophony when we came to realise that university this year would be changed indefinitely.
It was near the end of March when we found out that the situation of COVID had reached its boiling point – a sense of panic striking students to return back to their homes interstate and overseas for the uncertainty of what was to come.
When it came to optometry, the cloud of confusion covered our minds severely. For myself, learning the course and the way to become a fully functioning optometrist meant that I relied heavily on practicals and conducting the tests and concepts I learnt to grasp the notions. Learning through memorization with the rote learning that I grew so accustomed to during high school was something I quickly realized was ineffective – it passed the threshold of remembering but faltered when it came to understanding. Going to the labs, using the appropriate apparatus, and asking questions directly upon making mistakes in class was the way that I gradually was able to grasp the ideas being taught. This was how I was able to understand the concepts in a holistic point of view and how it is relevant in a clinical setting – deviating away from learning just how to distinguish between one module to another.
But with life transitioning virtually, this method was eradicated, and I was left to submerge myself back into comfortable method of memorizing and watching others carry out the tests on YouTube videos as my main point of reference. One thing I quickly learnt was that comfort can be woeful and the transition was difficult to say the least.
Add the stress of the world and my fellow peers and I swiftly realised that that it was going to be an arduous period.
How on earth were we meant to cope?
Fast forward a couple of months and it has reached the end of the year. Two semesters have passed, and the sun never looked brighter. The situation around the world is still a pressing issue but the initial turbulence of shock and panic has passed. And with every tumultuous period, there was an equally constructive period of learning and adapting to the changes. To reflect back on the time and some strategies that I was able to implement to make life just that little bit more tolerable and easier, I broke it down into three principles (an idea that I’ve started to implement into other aspects of my life).
The triple Cs.
- Consistency: Constant repetition can easily lead to frustration and the never-ending cycle of ‘I can’t be bothered’. This is not practical for students and ensuring that I at least maintained increments of study and memorization everyday for different units was the way to keep on top of tasks – even if it was an hour a day. This meant not focussing on solely one unit for a streak of a few days and rather ‘spicing’ it up by managing time to ensure chunks of time were allocated to different units which ultimately had different forms of learning. Being able to consistently distinguish between when to relax and when to study and doing only that during that period allowed me to regulate productivity and not end a day and feel anxious about not getting any progress done.
- Coordination: One of the greatest challenges when being at home in a virtual classroom was staying organized and knowing when to do what. When you are regularly meeting your fellow peers and having discussions in classes, the conversations around what’s due and what each task comprises of is easier and fluid. In an online sense, we lose that natural tendency to discuss impending assessments as we are overconsumed with other factors of procrastination that sit on our phones and devices. To counteract this, I ensured that I always had a diary and pen handy and consistently wrote down every assessment and date from university emails and lectures – whilst also looking back on it daily. Time flies and doing this helped to manoeuvre around the monotony of learning at home and created a routine of staying organized and not falling behind.
- Courage: The reality is that university was one of the last things that I wanted to focus on when the world felt like it was imploding into angst and terror. Doing the smallest tasks such as pre-readings or waking up early for a lecture was a mental tussle. But alas, understanding that this situation will not last forever and that I will not allow my goals to be hindered by adversity was the driving force into completing necessary tasks each day. It is a mentality shift where I had to be kind to myself and reinforce the idea that the whole world is going through this phase and not just myself alone. Knowing that and understanding those words was important and one that I believe that we can all take into consideration as we navigate through our studies and for the years to come.
The years to come will remain uncertain as we progress through optometry but one principal takeaway that I have garnered through this year was that resilience is key. Being able to bounce back and realise that this is a collective struggle that we will eventually overcome is an idea that needs to be ingrained into our minds as students.
We have faced hurdles before and we will continue to face them but with the right prioritization and organization, it can be less stressful than we conjure it up to be in our heads.
Onwards and upwards!