9 April 2020

Alejandra shares her ideas and tips for coping with the coronavirus lockdown as an international student.
Person reading

"Every song has a CODA, a final movement. Whether it fades out or crashes away, every song ends. Is that any reason not to enjoy the music? The truth is, there is nothing to be afraid of. It's just life."

–One Tree Hill

As I was binge-watching One Tree Hill, one of my favourite TV series during my high-school years, I discovered that this quote was never so true as in a lockdown. What we thought was normal is gone. Now we have to stay at home. Our heroes are on the front lines, risking their lives to save ours, and we have been asked only one simple thing: stay at home.

But, how simple is it really? There have been times in the past few weeks when I have felt overwhelmed by the amount of information available about COVID-19, and the many recommendations of how to stay productive at home. Some were packed with activities such as dancing, exercising, reading a million books, organising, writing assignments, jotting thoughts, learning a new language or skill, playing the guitar, and creating a YouTube channel, among others. On the other hand, there were posts in my Instagram feed telling me that it was OK to be 'lazy' and to not want to do things. My brain, which was trying to process the current situation, just turned to mush while trying to figure out what was the right or proper thing to do.

How do we approach this 'new normal'? For me, as an international master's student, I thought I would share with you how I have dealt with my well-being. Hopefully some of these ideas will be useful for you too.

Making Sense of the Situation

Being aware that this is our new reality (and it will be for the next days to come) was, for me, the first step to feeling OK. Take time to digest the current situation. Breathe and doodle (this worked for me). Also, knowing that some assignment deadlines are coming up, it is important that we wear pyjamas in bed, and we get dressed to start our new day at our desk or work station. If you have multiple spaces in your house, you can always take coffee breaks and just walk around.

Workspace with laptop and noticeboard

How to 'Do Nothing' and Not Feel Guilty About It

While talking to a dearest friend we discovered things that you can do that may feel non-productive but help you to relax. In a nutshell: listen to music, watch random videos, binge-watch a series (Money Heist AKA La Casa de Papel is out, just saying...), read for pleasure, talk for hours with friends, play UNO with flatmates, organise your kitchen and colour-coordinate it (this one can really relax you if you like organising things).

It's All About Endorphins

It's pretty straightforward. If you feel happy it will motivate you for the rest of the day. You can start your day with a short exercise routine to boost your energy, or anything else that will get you going. Even having a calm breakfast while reading a book can get you into the wave of the day. It could be a book you have already read or that one book you kept pushing into the future.

As you can see, it is about whatever works for you. Facetiming with some friends made me realise how amazingly different we are at embracing the new situation, and it is perfectly fine. You don't have to come out of the lockdown having written the next bestseller, but if writing inspires you, then why not? You can start a YouTube channel, record a song or a podcast, or you can also spend hours of your day watching others' videos and be entertained. We can try a new routine of exercises or enjoy a tea in the afternoon instead. Self-care is key, and we must tell ourselves that this is temporary, and we are strong enough to adapt to the new normal.

In the meantime, my message to all international students in their flats right now is to keep checking in and having long virtual calls with friends. Trust your community. We care for you. We will come out of this together. We have never been so close, no matter how far.

Alejandra Dancuart Zimmermann

Alejandra Dancuart Zimmermann is from Peru and is studying the MSc Human Resource Management.