• The Mentorship Spot

Post-COVID Reflection: Entering 4th Year

By: Divya Balendra


This article is part of a series of reflections by our team on their experiences during the pandemic. Divya Balendra, co-VP Content of The Mentorship Spot, will chronicle her journey of undergoing university through a pandemic. She is currently entering 4th year of the Medical Sciences at Western University.


Academics


Study habits: During the pandemic, I found that my study habits took a toll. With asynchronous classes and online assessments, it was very easy to lose track of time and “slack.” It was also difficult to keep up with a study schedule; every day felt mundane and repetitive because with the pandemic, there were so many restrictions on what else you can do. All of my second year was online and professors made many of our assessments logic and problem-solving based. Although I developed those skills, my memorization skills deteriorated


Learning Experience: with second year of undergrad entirely online, I definitely missed out on the in-person learning experience. Even though I’m not one to raise my hand and ask questions, there’s a lot I learn from other people asking questions. There were virtual office hours, but it wasn’t as impactful. However, because of this, I gained the courage to attend virtual office hours and build connections with my professors virtually and ask the questions I needed to succeed.


ECs


Did you find that it was harder to find extracurricular/research opportunities?: Definitely it was a struggle. Because there were restrictions, it wasn’t easy to find in-person research, or research opportunities in general. Extracurricular activities, however, became easier in a way.


How did you change the way that you looked/applied for opportunities?: I had to be more proactive in looking for opportunities. I also had to be open to indulging in extracurriculars that were unique, and not entirely something that I was looking for initially. For example, I joined The Mentorship Spot at the start of the pandemic, but it definitely wasn't my typical extracurricular activity. Fast forward to now, TMS encouraged me to apply to other mentorship-related extracurricular activities and hold leadership positions in these clubs! The online environment also encouraged me to apply for jobs, and I was able to start working at the hospital as a screener. The experience of working in a healthcare setting during a pandemic was quite an experience.


Did you like the increase in online extracurriculars or do you prefer interacting in-person? Why?: I definitely think that both in-person and online extracurriculars have merit. I gained self-confidence in participating in online activities, something I wouldn’t have had with in-person activities. However, some activities, such as research opportunities, were extremely difficult to come by online, especially wet lab research.


Mental Health and Overall Health


What were some ways in which your mental and physical health was affected during the pandemic?: Mental health definitely took a toll; I’m a social person, and to consistently see screens was not fun. I channeled these feelings into getting active; the first summer of the pandemic was the most active I’ve been with walks, jogs and home gym workouts.


How did you take care of your mental health and overall health during the pandemic?: Keeping myself busy with any form of social interaction helped me take care of myself. I started working at a hospital during the pandemic, I joined 3 mentorship teams so I could form connections with the mentor team and my mentees as well. I also tried to be outside as much as I could; I would find trails near my house to walk/jog which helped me take care of my physical and mental health!


Social Circles


How did your social surroundings change during the pandemic (was it more difficult to find friends)?: It was definitely harder to make new friends, especially because I’m not as extroverted. I was very thankful to go to work, because that gave me the opportunity to interact with my colleagues; I still keep in touch with them to date. I’m also thankful for Zoom and Facebook Messenger 😂 having virtual calls with my friends in uni allowed me to build strong connections with them; the relationships I built virtually ended up becoming stronger than ever once we met in person. You definitely had to learn a different level of commitment when everything’s online.


How did you approach meeting new people under these new circumstances?: I had to make use of what was given to me. Going to work was most of my social life, along with joining online team meetings for various clubs. Even though the interactions were virtual, it still allowed bonding of some sort.


How did university/highschool life change for you during the pandemic?: The fact that everything, from lectures to clubs, were all virtual was the biggest change. It was a learning curve to go from in-person office hours and club meetings, to interacting with them over a screen. It forced me to become more proactive and resilient with my communication.



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