Making the most of the virtual campus

Vandana Thutupalli, a Master of Biotechnology student, shares her top tips on navigating virtual study during the lockdown.

I presume that you are reading this article as you are not someone who is letting COVID-19 stop you from chasing your dream course or job. Well done! It goes without a doubt that the strongest steel is made from the hottest fire. Kudos to you for striving constantly. You are not alone in this.

My name is Vandana and I am in my final semester of the Master of Biotechnology at the University of Melbourne. As an international student from India, I’ve been in Melbourne for the past 1.5 years and I have fallen in love with the city. It is so warm and welcoming I certainly did not expect to be studying virtually instead of roaming around the Parkville campus that I love.

I’m determined to not let COVID-19 get the best of my life at University. Here are my top tips for students who are studying remotely.

A picture of Vandana in a white lab coat, wearing blue gloves and goggles, in a lab with other students for one of her Biotechnology classes

Vandana in one of her Biotechnology classes earlier in the year.

Zoom away!

Zoom has never been so important. During this difficult time I can’t necessarily go out and grab a meal with a buddy I just met or catch up on lectures in the wonderful halls of Old Arts that remind me of Hogwarts. Luckily, Melbourne Uni has made the Zoom platform available to all its students. The best part – you get unlimited hours of video meetings. I frequently use this platform to catch up with my friends and, have even caught up on study sessions together. I find this to be super useful!

You are cared for

Although it may seem like you are completely cut off from the outside world and stripped of socializing events, Melbourne Uni does not believe so. There are a whole lot of online social events and speed-friending events that are conducted by UMSU, GSA and the various student clubs. I have taken part in a few of them and have found them to be quite interesting! Stop 1 is another great place to get support. As a student in the Faculty of Science, my course coordinators organize regular online catchups for the whole cohort to get chatting. I have “met” some wonderful people through these platforms and we do stay in touch whenever we can!

Post-its and PJs are your new best friend

Sometimes, it can be a bit of a hassle to stay on top of all my lecture meetings and to-do lists. This has given me the wonderful opportunity to whip out my stock of stationery and post-its. I find that noting down tasks and activities that pop up is certainly beneficial in a physical form. I also make a note of them in my planner – so I’m set for the week! To top it all off, I save up on splurging on a new pair of jeans or giving in to retail therapy. I’ve begun to care for and love my PJs – I adore them. I mean seriously, who doesn’t love a comfy PJ?

We are all MasterChefs

We really are. I believe that each of us can whip up some lip-smacking dishes. I have always loved cooking and the restrictions on going out and grabbing a meal have upscaled my knack with the pots and pans. I have mastered the art of eye-balling proportions to the extent where I don’t have to worry about how much of salt I’m putting in my spaghetti or how many cups of self-raising flour are required to bake some delicious cookies. Cooking mind you, is not just a skill necessary to survive. It is a life skill.

A picture of a DELL computer on a desk next to a pair of glasses, a notebook with post it notes and pens on top of it, and a stack of notebooks leaned against a cream-coloured wall

Vandana's workstation at home.

Bringing out my inner bookworm

Gone are the days where I would splurge on things at Target or Kmart. I invested in buying a Kindle reader and, it’s my best decision so far. The vast number of books from varying genres keeps the innovative mind alive and kicking. Plus – the increase in vocabulary has helped me frame pretty good content for assignments at uni!

Strolls around the neighborhood are a thing

I’m not a gym enthusiast and given the fact that gyms are currently shut due to COVID-19 restrictions (no qualms about that!), I have taken to morning and evening strolls for some fresh air. I love the sound of the birds chirping, the feel of the cool breeze and the colourful skies at sunset. This leaves me feeling rejuvenated and ready for the day. I have taken quite a few insta-worthy pictures on many such strolls. On a few chance occasions, I even end up chatting with other strollers around the parks (through social distancing) – I have had fantastic conversations with a few of them!

A picture of a tree-lined street, with a pathway dividing evergreen trees on the left, and orange coloured trees on the right

Image from one of Vandana’s local streets

Get your beauty sleep!

Last but not the least, don’t forget to catch up on your sleep. I notice that on days where I get a full night’s sleep, I wake up super refreshed the next day. Energy levels are soaring and I’m ready to take on any task that comes my way. Sleeping repairs all your tired cells and keeps your body healthy. I try to maintain a set routine every day and I have found this to be extremely beneficial!

These are unexpected situations and times in our lives. And the best part about these times are that we can get through them. I hope to see you all back on campus soon. We are in this together!