Pandemic Profs: How I Maintain Structure in My “School Day”

Welcome to our series to give you a glimpse into Rowan University, our campus culture, and the lives of our students, while we’re practicing social distancing to protect society from the spread of COVID-19. Today’s story is from Nicole Cier, a senior isolating in her house in Middlesex County, NJ. Nicole is a writing arts major who normally lives in Rowan Boulevard Apartments during the school year. 

With the constant news alerts, cancellations, and changes in my college schedule due to COVID-19, it can be difficult to focus on what really matters. Each day, a new aspect of daily life changes for people around the world due to this virus, and it can especially be a rough time for college students to adjust. Now more than ever, it is extremely important to maintain a routine during the week, so we can stay on top of our work and ensure success.

A hand holding a yellow phone with Google Calendar pulled up.
A snapshot from my Google Calendar for these upcoming weeks.

Structure in our days is much harder to attain while we’re confined to our house, juggling family time and alone time, and still trying to hang onto our jobs and degrees. But small adjustments in our daily lives during a time of social distancing can have a positive impact on our happiness, productivity, and education. We, as college students, must strive to maintain a sense of normalcy to get us through these challenging times. 

  • Plan out a schedule for each day. When it comes to school work (and for some of you, remote work or internship responsibilities), organization is still the biggest factor in your success. Use a planner or Google Calendar to keep track of your commitments, scheduling out specific blocks of time to work on certain things. Treat your remote courses as if they are in-person courses and avoid distractions. Don’t forget to include time for lunch, and intersperse a few short breaks to get up and stretch/walk/play with a pet/FaceTime a friend! You can also use these tools to keep track of your class video meetings, due dates and other important events. Personally, I also find that keeping a to-do list for each day is a great way to stay productive. I give myself a reasonable amount of tasks to complete by the end of the day, and feel like I’ve made the most of my time by accomplishing them.
    A chocolate cake with sprinkles on a cake stand.
    One of the items on my “quarantine bucket list” was to bake a cake!
  • Make time for fun and exercise. Although we’re working remotely and staying home, we all still need fresh air and vitamin D! Going outside is not off-limits, so long as you’re mindful of social distance. Make sure to leave yourself time every day to do something you enjoy and be active. Grab a family member (or call a friend) and go for a walk. Explore neighborhoods in your town you’ve never been to for a change of scenery. Wave to people as you pass by, to help us all feel connected. Take up a new hobby like yoga or DIY projects or virtual group activities (the “Netflix Party” extension for Google Chrome is my favorite). We may be quarantined, but that doesn’t mean we have to binge-watch Friends all day, every day!
  • Maintain your regular hygiene. Just because we’re not leaving the house doesn’t mean we must give up on our hygiene and appearance! On days you are working, put on “work clothes” (AKA anything but sweats, at this point). If you will be video chatting for class or internships, wear a business casual outfit. Shower regularly, brush your teeth and hair as usual, and even apply some makeup if you wish! Continuing your hygiene routine during quarantine will give you a sense of normalcy and will keep you feeling your best.
  • Nicole's boyfriend at a "social distance picnic."
    My boyfriend and I went on a “social distance picnic” at a park nearby.
    Keep a “quarantine bucket list.” Optimism is key at a time like this, and having a list of things you want to accomplish is a great way to stay motivated. Your list can include fun things such as tie-dying old t-shirts or learning a new skill, and it can include practical things such as cleaning your room or going through your old clothes to donate. These tasks will give you something to look forward to, keep you busy in moments of boredom, and hopefully prevent you from falling into a three-hour TikTok rabbithole (guilty). Try to allot time for at least one item on your bucket list each day, to keep some excitement and variability in your routine.
  • Develop an online community. Studying at home doesn’t mean you have to learn on your own; connect with other students in your class! Try utilizing remote platforms such as Google Hangouts or Zoom for remote group study sessions. I created text and email groups so I can ask and answer questions.
A laptop on a desk with office supplies, with colorful posters in the background.
This is my #RowanAtHome desk.

As we all try to find a new normal in our daily lives, it is important to allow extra time and space for growth and reflection. Mental health is even more important now, and maintaining a regular schedule and practicing self-care can help us navigate the realm of COVID-19.

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Story and photos by:
Nicole Cier, senior writing arts major