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With today's welcome event, my first semester studying Management & Technology at Technical University of Munich has officially been kicked off.
While it is not the first semester to be hit by the ongoing pandemic, studying today is a lot different from what most people are used to, even for people who enrolled a year ago.
To get it out of the way, I believe by far the biggest downside of the current situation is not being able to meet fellow freshmen in person, though there have been significant efforts to enable similar experiences in virtual environments.
Onsite activities such as sports, clubs, and other social events are, of course, also not taking place either, which reduces studying down to, well, studying.
Studying in higher education has always involved a lot of organizing around which courses to take, when to study for specific topics and exams, ultimately requiring you to manage time carefully, a huge contrast to how everything worked up to high school, at least that's how it was for me.
I think this requirement of staying organized is enhanced even further by moving everything online. Typically, I'll receive new course materials at the beginning of each week, after which I'm completely on my own. Except for a couple of scheduled events like group-based tutorials and exercises throughout the week, I can largely decide how I'll get stuff done.
Not only do you have to get active when it comes to studying, with everything being moved online now, but you also have to get creative when it comes to social activities and meeting your fellow students as well. One particularly helpful method I got introduced to was tutorials where you're able to work on exercises with other students in breakout rooms, with the ability to request help from a tutor. Being shuffled into groups forces you out of the comfort zone and enables you to meet new people, so I'd heavily recommend taking part in exercises.
In the end, you hopefully made the decision to enroll in some kind of university program on your own terms, so studying is a voluntary act. I'm lucky to be in that place, as I could also spend my time focused on working full-time, advancing my career, or doing whatever else I set my mind to. This is another change to school, where you don't typically have a choice, so the motivation should be different this time around.
While the start might be a bit scary at first, searching through numerous Moodle pages and identifying how each course is set up to work, you'll get the hang of it. Due to my pre-course in mathematics, I had some practice, which definitely helped. And of course, there are friendly people to ask if something doesn't quite work out.
Once you get over the initial hill of figuring out what needs to be done, the ability to create a personal schedule could become your greatest freedom: Getting up when you want, adding in breaks, or deciding to learn in the evenings if this works better for you. Whatever it is that works for you, you're able to do just that.
I already talked about how remote work transformed how I spend my days, so when I initially planned to pick up studies, I was a bit worried that I'd lose the flexibility I had gained. Luckily enough, as everything else changed during this year, course schedules did too, and so I can continue to plan my day with nearly no fixed appointments.
One of the most important things is not to get stressed out. This is a completely novel situation for everyone involved, whether it's the faculty staff that needed to record learning materials from scratch in little time, to the university administration that continuously monitors the current situation, we all have to adjust to the changes.
This also means that no-one could have predicted how this would turn out, which decisions to change in retrospect, or what will happen in the future. For now, going with the flow seems like the appropriate action.
Building productive habits around studying and working on projects, but also focusing on your physical and mental health which should be more important than ever, especially in times of isolation, will be the daily challenge, for months to come. Let's make the best of it 🚀