How to make the most out of Digital Learning and Student Life

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I have been sitting on writing this for a while now and the reason has been nothing but my own obsession for the simple things and in knitting different perspectives together to make a thing resourceful for most; sort of like, those good conversations you may have been in, where everyone gets to carry something away with them in the end.

Get yourself apps to improve your day 

The human part of me that thrives on honesty is begging me to be more open about the mental stress attached with most things that have happened so far in 2020, but the part of me that understands self preservation and would rather save those conversations for the tribe has accepted to tread between the lines.   

So, below are my tips for the year and my own best practices using Zoom, MS Teams, Skillshare learning platform and other aspects of the digital world. Take what you need.  

The wellbeing side of Video Cameras  

I could imagine that with online learning, there would be a huge demand for connections and there has been. The virtual space has become what face to face used to be, just without the body languages and proximity. It is not 100% comfortable for anyone, but it can be made adaptable. 

  • For privacy, I would recommend finding a cool spot in your room/house and setting it up as your Meeting/Study Zone (against a wall, perhaps. 

  • You can find affordable study equipment to set up with at Ikea, Wilko, Argos, T Maxx, B & M, etc. “Affordability is relative.” 

  • The University Library has a collection of branded backgrounds . Use them all and when in doubt, try Unsplash for more free options. 

How to change your background in Zoom & Teams Tutorials: 

Find the apps that suit you!  

  • Productivity and educational apps are practical tools you cannot avoid using as a student. It is the first step to prioritizing with the 80/20 (Pareto) principle, in working less and achieving more. I am no expert in multi-tasking (you honestly do not need to impress anyone if you are not either), but it helps if you make an effort to find the best app on Playstore to suit your study times and help organize those to-do lists.  

  • Sticky notes are good investments; it can be used as flashcards and blend in well with the Cardiff University Students app.    

  • Student Beans and Uni Days are apps that provide the best student discounts and exclusive offers. 

  • If you regularly use Cardiff buses, you may want to consider getting the iff card. The railcards work the same for train journeys.  

  • Google Docs are great for creating documents that can be shared easily via Google Drive.  

  • Grammarly Extension in Microsoft Word to track spellings during essay writings - Swift! 

  • Safezone apps is a good app to download when on campus.

  • YouTube is my one-stop shop for all things education, offering you all the practical knowledge about everything. Almost. 

  • I downloaded Evernote after losing the thought of a project idea because I trusted my brain too much to remember every little detail — It never does. 

  • For reference management during dissertation writing or otherwise, there is Mendeley, EndNote, and Scrivener — Experience all till you find your fit.  

  • The Forest is a great app for studying if you tend to be easily distracted by your phone (and it is also the best way to make a change, passively). 

  • I would also mention Spotify because "who doesn't love good music?" The platform could boast of the best study playlists.   

  • Use HeadSpace for your mind at night. 

For the Love of Connections  

Digital platforms create precincts that promote connections.  It’s not the same with the face to face interactions we had before, but it’s what we have got now and it works all the same. 

  • As students, we can't form study groups or offer peer-to-peer support to one another if we can't get to the point of being comfortable in each other's presence while utilizing these platforms. Turning your camera, regardless of what has been said, is the first step to getting to know the people you’d be studying with for the whole year or more. Try it. Baby steps, really. Keep to a pace that feels most comfortable to you.    

Making New Friends  

Self-isolating or studying remotely and concerned about making new friends? 

  • Why not ask around to know if your coursemates are interested in creating a WhatsApp Group or reach out to your Student Reps to know what networks are available? 

  • You could also try Umii or Bumble BFF. They both do the same things, except that Umii was created this year and is more fit for purpose. I say this because it is more targeted, matches you up with people beyond bio or looks and you could select Cardiff University and modify the specificity of its analytics in finding other students like you using the app in Cardiff.     

  • Do remember to always follow official Government Guidance when making friends. Taking precaution is no show of cowardice. 

Every vibe has a tribe. 

Meeting new people, understanding people from different backgrounds/races to yours, forming real friendships and creating connections, all require conscious effort. You can find fun in every situation, if you open your mind. Look closely.  

Taking Breaks (Lots and lots of breaks)  

You have to be alive to live life.

Do you ever notice how good you feel when you simply do more of what makes you happy? Sometimes, I have to convince my mind it is time to care for my mental health, beyond all the important meetings and Skillshare moments. Health is wealth and in an unprecedented time like this, it is almost the only thing that makes sense after family and friends. " If you burn out, it wouldn't be good. And if you are not feeling good, you can't show up for people who are counting on you to show up for them.   

Remember, if you need support our Student Advice team can help

Tips for looking after yourself:

  • Take walks, lots and lots of walks.    

  • Take a Coffee/Tea break or do it in a grand style and have scoops of Ice-cream.   

  • Have a "Me" day, where you get to watch movies or play your favourite instrument or get in some workouts to stay fit. 

  • Visit the The Taf for some food with your housemates! 

  • Learn some new recipes or craft (hand lettering, gardening, jam making, etc). There is a tutorial for everything on YouTube! There’s also the Udemy, Skillshare, Masterclass and even, the Food Network. 

  • Read a good student book. I’d  recommend:  

    • Make it Stick by Brown R.M (for all Students). 

    • The Uni-verse (the ultimate university survival guide) by Jack Edwards. 

    • Feedback: Essential Writing Skills for Intermediate Students by Jane Sherman (for Students whose writing is Intermediate).  

    • Study skills in English: student’s book by Michael Wallace (for all Students).  

Complementing the roles of things  

  • Literally, just because you can fight, doesn't mean you should - Learn to choose your battles. This is what I mean.  You will have course mates who will be smarter (or think they are), more creative or more out-spoken, and you will be tempted (too many times) into the non-existent role of "competing" with them. If you are not deeply rooted in your "Why" already, you will fall into the cycle. I'd tell you for free - It’s a waste of time. Stop competing with people you should be learning from (or who should be learning from you). Be a sponge and soak as much skills and knowledge from wherever and whomever, especially from coursemates/colleagues whose academic purpose or the humanity behind their research/study/work ethics you understand & admire.  

  • Find ways to use different supermarkets to achieve your budget.   

  • Find methods on what brands to use for the different clothings you need; Primark, M & S, New Look, etc.   

  • Find beauty/drug stores that stack back a few quids for you; Super Drugs, Boot, Body Shop, Lush, etc.  Make the most out of club & nectar cards. 

  • Find affordable restaurants. There are plenty to choose from in Cathays, Heath, the city centre and Cardiff Bay that can save you both time and money, if you eat out once in a while.  

  •  Bute Park and Roath Park are great places to go for a walk.   

Complement Roles. Get the full experience of everything. Engage. Evolve. Try all new things that your mind & hands find to do.  

PS: Take it easy. It gets better. One day at a time.  

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