The pandemic has raised a multitude of challenges in almost every sphere of life. 

As a Chinese language student, I knew what I was getting into. 

However, adjusting to the workflow, unfamiliar environment and online fatigue became a challenge during my intensive summer program at the University of Virginia. 

I faced these types of challenges using tactics to help me succeed in my classes and enjoy them. 

Here is a list of tips and tricks I used to get through the program while still retaining what I learned. 

Adjusting to a Heavy Online Workflow

My intensive program felt like it was more than just “intensive.” I had over 20 hours of class time per week, about four hours of homework daily and an exam every Friday. 

I felt like I was in over my head. 

I knew if I sat down to do all of my homework at once I would tire myself out too quickly. Instead, I worked on the assignments for one hour and took a 15-minute break. 

This way I made the time to finish my assignments, take breaks and let the information sink in.

When it came to the weekly exams, I made practice questions for the oral section. Then I used Anki to review characters for the written section. 

I still use this system today. It truly is effective for any fast-paced Chinese class.

A Change of Scenery

For the first week of class, I did everything in my apartment. From sunup to sundown, I stayed doing work there, only leaving to go for food. 

It wasn’t until the second week that I became tired of the same old boring scenery. 

I decided to try new places to do my work. First I went to the library, then the coffee shops and even to the beach. 

I found changing my scenery not only helped me focus, but also helped me enjoy my classes more.

Avoiding Online Fatigue

In total, my program was eight weeks long with a three-day break in the middle. When I finished Week 4, I thought the rest would go by just as easy. 

But I was wrong. 

When the second half of the program started, I could barely pay attention in class. I found myself getting distracted very easily. 

Even though I had changed my environment and adopted a new plan for doing my work, online fatigue felt unavoidable. 

For the latter end of my program I had to adjust once more. 

I decided that immediately after class I would take an extensive break to avoid screen time on any devices. 

I started to run midday and go to the gym as a source of distraction from the large amount of homework. 

Sometimes I would even watch a Chinese drama to passively practice my Chinese.

It’s important to note that this is not procrastination. As a college student I typically feel rushed to do everything by or before its due date. But taking a break is okay and necessary. 

How has the pandemic affected your learning strategies? Do you have any advice for our other readers? Feel free to share below!


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Collin Absher

Collin Absher is a Chinese Studies major at the College of William and Mary. Collin hopes to spread his love of Chinese Literature and poetry in fun ways!
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