Just last week, I flew home from northern Spain where my semester-long overseas program was cancelled for the rest of the semester. What now? I’m studying abroad ... from my house in Berkeley, California.
Yep, my courses in Spain are all moving online. Meanwhile, my sister, who goes to UCLA, just got the email that her entire spring quarter will be remote and virtual. And to top things off, my parents are both working entirely from home.
At least my dog could not be happier with the 24/7 attention.
On Monday, my hometown in the San Francisco Bay Area announced the implementation of strict “shelter in place” orders. On the same day, President Trump announced that gatherings of more than 10 people must be avoided as part of the country's measures to prevent the spread of the virus. People all across the U.S. are shifting to working or studying remotely, part of the national push for social distancing.
This is a huge shift in many people’s routines as we move the busyness of our lives to our kitchen tables and bedroom desks. But I’ve compiled a few tips to make the following weeks (read: months!) a bit more bearable.
Keep a routine
For those of us not used to at-home schooling, we typically associate staying at home with sick days and never changing out of pajamas. While lounging on the couch in a bathrobe may seem tempting the first few days, it’s important to remember that our bodies need routines. It can be hard to keep up that daily routine when we are stuck inside, but it is important to treat each day as if it is just another work or school day to keep up your energy and morale. Make your bed, shower, cook breakfast and do everything you might do in the morning as if you’re heading off to school as usual. It will make your day feel more productive!
If your professor is using Zoom for video conferencing, make sure to familiarize yourself with the application. Check out the Zoom Help Center to see how you can join a test meeting before the real deal begins. Your professor may send a link to join the meeting, but it works much faster and more smoothly if you have the app already installed.
Also, make sure to “arrive” at class a few minutes early, just as you might do for an in-person lecture or discussion class. This way you can troubleshoot any tech problems with some cushion time.
If you have other family members relying on your home Wi-Fi router, you’ll likely need to coordinate when you all have important conferences happening, since your router may not have the capacity for all of you at once.
Lots of internet and wireless providers are working to make Wi-Fi more accessible and less expensive in the coming weeks. In fact, Comcast is offering free Wi-Fi hotspots and unlimited data for the next 60 days across the country.
Remember, if you have Wi-Fi troubles, you can use your smartphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot, which means that your computer will connect to the internet using your phone’s data. (Only do this for emergencies, since it can drain your phone battery. And it can quickly cost you money based on your data plan and limits.)
Finally, if all else fails when you’re trying to connect, see if your Zoom conference has a phone dial-in, so that you can get the audio version of class at the very least.
Create a support group
It’s a good idea to start a group chat through email or texting apps like GroupMe with fellow peers in your class. Remember that if you’re having trouble connecting, hearing your professor or understanding something, you probably aren’t the only one and you can instantly check in with classmates. Stay in communication with your professors if you want to schedule office hours or you think you need an extension on assignments.
For now, you can find me in my kitchen cooking paella or Spanish tortilla in a feeble effort to recreate my semester abroad here at home. But doing our part during this pandemic means staying at home — just remember that you’re not alone.