It’s safe to say 2020 wasn’t what we expected it to be. For some of us, 2020 was our graduating year; for some of us, our first semester at college. We began the year with hopes riding high, but we soon found ourselves spending endless days at home, baking sourdough and attending online classes. But despite how many class trips, science labs, high school proms and other events may have been cancelled, 2020 doesn’t have to be a lost cause—as long as we take something away from it. Here are some things we learned from the past year, and how to study through the new year as better and wiser versions of ourselves!

  1. We learned how to find space for ourselves.

Many students were surprised this year to learn that the important thing about going to school wasn’t necessarily the classes and teachers; it was the fact that we could physically travel to a space that was dedicated to learning. If anyone found their motivation and grades slipping, they shouldn’t entirely blame themselves—part of it is the lockdown and stay-home guidelines. This year, we learned how to make space for ourselves when it wasn’t given to us. Some of us put a “zoom booth” in our living rooms. Some of us had to decide to never study on our beds. While this may feel like a lockdown-specific tactic, it’ll be an important strategy moving forward. Students will always need to take initiative to dedicate study spaces.

  1. We learned how to connect virtually.

One thing that has made school worth going to despite all the stress: the invaluable friendships and connections formed with our peers. In 2020, many students found their social landscapes torn apart. Without being in the same classrooms and cafeterias, how were we supposed to stay connected? Thankfully, being the generation of rapid digital adaptation, we found clever ways to stay connected online. We had Zoom parties and Among Us nights. This turned out to be paramount for our academic lives, too—staying in touch with your classmates, however virtually, gave us the sense that we are still going to school and taking classes with our peers. Some of us formed online study groups to stay accountable for classes, and this helped us both socially and academically. While we hope 2021 will end on a pandemic-free note, it looks like online study groups are here to stay.

  1. We learned how to plan our own time.

One of the most common phrases people exchanged near the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdowns was, “time doesn’t feel real anymore.” No longer micromanaged by the schedule of the campus community, we found our afternoons blending with our nights, and weekdays blending with weekends. We learned that carving out blocks of time for different tasks and sticking to a regular schedule is crucial to getting anything done. Many of us learned this the hard way; many of us are still learning. The most important thing was to establish routine, even when nothing about the world felt routine. We had to find the motivation to get up in the morning and do something, even if it was as simple as sending an email. We took charge of our own time.

  1. We learned how to stay healthy.

Students as a demographic aren’t exactly known for their healthy sleep or eating habits, but if anything could make them even worse, it was the pandemic. Going outside was such an integral part of our health that staying home all the time affected our well-being and academic ability. We learned that without staying nourished and active, our capability to study quickly fell to pieces. This was not just a lesson in physical health, but also in mental health. It even earned a name—COVID blues. Many students suffered from worsened depression and anxiety and found it difficult to stay on top of work. In these circumstances, we learned that taking care of ourselves is more important than anything else.

  1. We learned what our priorities are.

Perhaps most importantly, students came to a big reckoning on what their priorities are. When nothing about the world felt right and things kept changing on a daily, they had to choose what they would hold onto. Maybe some students had to prioritize taking care of their family over chasing their career goals. Maybe some made an extra effort to call their friends because they realized just how much they meant to them. This is a personal lesson that everyone took away from the pandemic, and when COVID eventually goes away, these lessons will stay. We will push through 2021 with a new attitude towards life, forever asking ourselves: “what is most important to me?”

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