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Studying at home

Just like the rest of the Durham community (and the world!), I have been studying at home for the past few months and have had to adapt whilst preparing for the final push of my degree. It’s looking like working from home might become our reality for a little longer, whether that’s your family home or your student home, I thought I would share my tips for staying focused and positive during this crazy time.

I’m sure most people can agree that lockdown came at probably the most stressful time of the academic year. At Durham, the Easter holidays and third term are typically the time for final exams, essay deadlines, and dissertation hand-ins, with the Bill Bryson library becoming many students’ second home. As all university buildings had been closed indefinitely at the end of March, most of us had to quickly change plans and start working from home, something I don’t think any of us were expecting.

Make a timetable

To keep on top of my work (and stay sane studying in my family home), I found it really helpful to make a timetable early on so I could spend enough time preparing for my deadlines and exams. For some people, this might work best as a colour coded diary or calendar, but for me, it was enough to write my deadlines down in my diary and set out a rough plan at the beginning of each week e.g roughly how many words of my dissertation I wanted to get done that week. The best part about this is you can write in free days and plan treats to keep you motivated (plus points for motivational quotes if that’s your thing!).

Planning the week in advance makes it easier to keep on top of deadlines

Keep a routine

As well as this, with lots of things changing at the minute, I would definitely recommend keeping to your normal routine as much as possible and using the studying techniques that you’re used to. For me, this meant doing the past exam papers on DUO to see which topics or areas I needed to work on, as well as reading the feedback from my earlier essays/mocks to look for ways I could improve. If you prefer group study, however, there are still ways to work over Zoom or Facebook messenger, talking through past exam questions together, making each other quizzes are just a couple of ideas. We are all in the same boat at the minute so don’t be afraid to ask your friends or course-mates for tips.

Planning answers to past exam questions – all past papers can be found in the DUO library!

Change your workspace

And finally, when it comes to the whole ‘home’ aspect of ‘studying at home,’ this is probably where we have all had to change our studying habits the most. As someone who prefers the quiet of the library, it became hard to concentrate in my little bungalow whilst my parents were on furlough. This isn’t an ideal situation for anyone, but what worked for me was working in a different place every so often (this could be pretty much anywhere with a surface – at one point I even ended up writing my essays on the massage bed in my mum’s beauty salon!). If, like me, you don’t have a desk in your room and have to work on your bed, keeping your room as tidy as possible and putting your books and laptop away once you have finished working will definitely help. If you are studying in your student house try swapping rooms with someone, I’ve found a change of scene works wonders.

My finished dissertation!

Studying at home has definitely been a challenge I didn’t think I would have to deal with in my final year at university, but I have surprised myself as to how well I have managed to adapt. The most important advice I can give is to find a routine that works for you and stick to it.

And don’t forget to treat yourself!

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Anna Mossop

I’m Anna, a fourth year at St. Mary’s College studying Modern Languages and Cultures. I am the first person to go to University in my family.
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