The international student guide to a work-life balance while staying home

Following UK government regulations, INTO University of Exeter has temporarily moved its teaching online to allow students to continue their studies from home.

Students have chosen to either stay in their university accommodation or return to their home countries, but wherever they’re learning, INTO’s academic staff are supporting students through virtual learning.

Staying focused while studying and finding ways to entertain yourself will be a new challenge for most students, so here’s how some of our current and former INTO University of Exeter students are handling this new way of life.

Manasvi, India: create a study space

Manasvi is currently studying the International Year One Accounting and Finance and has returned to her family’s home in London to continue her studies online.

Here are a few tips about how she keeps motivated during her studies from home.

  1. Create a task list. I like to work in a clean space and clear up my desk to make sure I only have materials that are required for the day around me. I use a planner in which I jot down a to-do list for the following day. In the list, I prioritise my tasks based on deadlines, importance and interest. I usually start with the task I want to do least and work my way down the list.
  2. Take lots of breaks. I try to take a break every so often, and usually try to do something completely different, like playing with my dog. I try to work during normal school hours so that I can be efficient with my work, plan wisely and allow myself to switch off and relax in my downtime.
  3. Find activities you enjoy. It’s important to find things to do, even during lockdown when we can’t leave the house regularly. My family and I have been binge-watching a lot of shows on Netflix and playing lots of board games. I have a younger brother with a similar interest in video games as me, so we play a lot of those.
  4. Stay connected with your teachers! Teachers have been very helpful, giving timely updates on everything and responding to emails quickly, even over the weekends. They give very detailed feedback and make sure there isn’t any miscommunication, so the current circumstances don’t stop our learning. I also have a group chat with some of my classmates. We keep in touch to discuss deadlines, the syllabus and share any new information with each other. We also call often and study together to make sure we don’t get bored.

Jacqueline, Malaysia: find different ways to motivate yourself

Jacqueline, originally from Malaysia and now living in Singapore, progressed to BSc (Hons) Psychology at the University of Exeter after studying an International Year One at INTO Exeter. Here are some tips from her about how she stays driven while at home.

  1. Make use of apps. I get distracted really easily, so I use an app called Forest which locks my phone for 30 minutes at a time while I study. The app is really cute – you ‘plant a tree’ which grows while you’re not using your phone. If you go on your phone the tree wilts, but if you manage to reach your target time without checking your phone, your tree is added to your ‘forest’ and you get a coin. Get enough coins and you can plant a real tree! This helps me block out distractions and concentrate on my studies, and it’s even a chance to help the environment.
  2. Spend time with the people around you. Spending quality time with my family helps me cope with the current challenges. My mum and I have been cooking a lot – there’s a Chinese dessert we made called Qing Tang. She was really proud of the end product! I feel like this strange period of time has been a blessing in disguise where I get to spend more time with my family and savour every moment that we have with each other.
  3. Virtually hang out with your friends. I’ve also been taking time for myself and have been going online quite a bit to game with my friends – I feel we do need to find something that we enjoy doing to take our mind off this stressful situation!

Sofiia, Ukraine: make the most of your free time

Sofiia studied the International Foundation in Economics, Finance and Management before she progressed to her degree in BSc (Hons) Accounting and Finance at the University of Exeter, which she’s now studying at home in Ukraine. Here are her tips for maintaining a daily routine at home.

  1. Get up as you usually would. During quarantine, it’s better to maintain the old daily routine and not be tempted by the idea of waking up and falling asleep later. This will help you to feel full of energy and spend your time effectively.
  2. Use the time to get the maximum benefit for yourself. Write a list of things you have always put off. Things you told yourself you’d start doing, like morning exercises or improving your English skills. Use the opportunity of free access to online courses to learn something new. Many platforms, such as Coursera, have made all their courses free during the quarantine. This is a great time to do things you don’t have time to do usually.
  3. If you’re at home, communicate with your family. Discuss your work schedule and help them to understand that you are not on vacation – work is ongoing, and it’s important for you to focus on it. Set a timetable and agree what time you are working so you aren’t distracted and know when you can spend time all together. Remember they’re also in a difficult situation – share responsibility for household chores to support your family, ask where and how to help and try not to create additional stress.

Hugo, Hong Kong: stay in touch with friends and family

Hugo, a former INTO student, decided to stay at his home in Exeter, where he’s studying for his degree in BSc (Hons) Management and Marketing. He shares his tips for staying focused on studies without a support system physically there with him.

  1. Find ways to keep busy. I am currently staying in Exeter and I didn’t go back to my home country. All of my flatmates went back home and I’m living on my own, so I’ve been keeping busy! When I’m not studying, I’ve set up a ‘home gym’ to keep fit and I like to play piano and guitar to pass the time. I’m also reading a lot to keep learning, even in my free time.
  2. Change out of your pyjamas! I like to study in the living room as it gets some sunshine and it’s far from the bedroom, which boosts my motivation and concentration to study. I’m not the kind of person that could work efficiently sat on the bed. I also heard that wearing proper clothes will increase your work efficiency more than wearing pyjamas because it sends a message to your brain that it’s time to work. So get changed for work!
  3. Keep in contact with people in your life. Staying connected to friends and family is important so I’ve been using lots of apps to talk to them, such as WhatsApp, Instagram, Zoom, Skype and mobile games we can play together.

You may also like to read our top tips to stay motived while studying from home or 9 secrets to successful study.

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