Post-COVID Reflection: Entering 5th Year
Updated: Sep 23
By Leslin Mathew
This article is part of a series of reflections by our team on their experiences during the pandemic. Leslin Mathew, co-VP Outreach of The Mentorship Spot, will chronicle her journey of undergoing university through a pandemic. She is currently entering her 5th Year at Western University.
During the pandemic one of my main struggles was finding a setting that helped to maintain focus on my studies. Most of the time my room was the primary place, however having my bed around made it hard to focus for longer periods of time. It was quite hard finding one place that I could consistently sit at and completely focus since there were distractions all over the house. While online learning was an experience that helped improve my learning, there were many learning curves to overcome. I found that online lectures were more comfortable and easier to follow along than in person. It gave me more flexibility but also made me more confident in the fact that if I missed something important, I could always go back and re-listen. Being able to control the speed of the lecture was also a handy tool that came along side online learning. Being in person, you don’t really have control over how fast or slow the lecturer talks. Online lectures helped me to learn at my own pace and in a way that worked for me.
Research opportunities were extremely difficult to find. I can’t express the number of times I received response emails that expressed they were not taking volunteers due to COVID lockdowns. It was hard but understandable. On the other hand, one thing I missed partaking in during online school was extracurriculars. During online school, I only remained in TMS, which had already began doing their activities online when I had joined the team. So, it wasn’t much of a transition.
Online clubs have given me a mixed preference. Although I love the in-person interactions and networking with people face to face, being part of an online club had allowed me to meet people that are not just within Western but all over Ontario. It created a great opportunities to meet new people and share experiences.
Mental Health and Overall Health
Thankfully I never caught COVID-19, and I will forever be grateful to my immune system for that. However, on the flip side, I would say my mental health did take a toll. A part of me felt trapped in this routine of isolation. It was the same routine over and over: wake up, turn on your laptop, go to your lectures and labs, study and sleep. Slowly I started to feel burnt out, and exhausted. I didn’t know what to do with myself since everything was closed. And when summer rolled around, I was so stuck in that school routine that I had no clue what to do now that school was over.
One way I took care of myself during this time was reconnecting with my love for reading. During the summer, I was able to rest and recharge, but read many new books that I have been putting on the back burner due to school priorities. Being able to finally crack into those books helped my mental health recovery a lot. Similarly, scheduling online calls or movie nights with my friends was also a great way to help recover my mental health.
I think during the school year it was way more difficult for my friends and I to connect since we were all exhausted from online school. But every couple of months, especially during reading week, we would find a way to set up online calls where we would just catch up on how we were all doing. During online classes, it was definitely more difficult to make friends since all of us had our cameras off, and there were barely any interactions.
I found that being going to online office hours were a great way to meet new people. Struggling through similar problems was a great bonding experience to make friends. Also, being part of group activities, especially during lab sessions, were really helpful in making friends. Being part of a group kind of forced us to contact each other outside of class hours and work late nights together, which eventually helped create new friendship.