Your College Aunts Week 1: New Term, New Me?

It’s time to address the elephant in the room… how do we get through this remote term?

First and foremost, your aunts would like to wish you a Happy New Year! Yes, we’re in a lockdown, and yes Lent term is basically remote, but if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that no one really knows what’s going to happen. This next term isn’t going to be easy, but your aunts are going to do their very best to guide you through and remind you that you are not alone. Accept the uncertainty – relish in it! Take this time to realise what’s really important to you and, most importantly, at no point, no matter how much you want to impress your supervisor, prioritise your work over your wellbeing.

This week’s column is your new Aunt Amira’s first, so get ready for a new perspective on your dilemmas. And if that’s not enough to get you excited, we’ve also revealed our first podcast guest for next Thursday’s episode. You’ve probably seen his face grace cover images for the Tab’s Weekly ‘What’s On’ column, introducing… the lovely Gleb!

An engineer who rows. What more could you want? (Photo credits: Leila Lawrence and Amira Nandhla)

Anyway, you’ll have to wait another week before you get to listen to Gleb’s hot-takes on your problems, so in the meantime be sure to catch up on any episodes you’ve missed. Enough on the podcast, let’s dive into this week’s questions:

Q1: Most of my flat have returned to Cambridge but I’m staying at home. I’m worried that they will grow closer and when I return we won’t be as close as friends

Ah, sounds like we’ve got a classic case of FOMO on our hands. As someone who is also staying at home this term, I can relate to the feeling of detachment from Cambridge, as Panopto lectures aren’t really enough to recreate the ~Cambridge vibes~. However, without seeming too harsh, this is not a justification for a FOMO-induced breakdown. As usual, this is easier said than done. Nevertheless, here are some of my tips and reminders:

  1. Worrying about things which are out of your control, like relationships between other people, is probably one of the most emotionally unproductive activities you can engage in. It feeds into an anxiety-feedback loop, increasing your anxiety.
  2. As difficult as the thought of your friendship group getting closer with one another may be, you’ve got to remember that this doesn’t automatically mean they won’t stay friends with you, or that you won’t fit in anymore. I know Cambridge terms are chaotic and jam-packed, but in the grand scheme of things, one term shouldn’t be enough to drastically change your entire relationship with multiple people, simply because you weren’t in the same location. And, honestly, if it is enough, then you should probably find better friends. Seriously.

What all these issues come down to is accepting that, even in the worst-case scenario, you will be okay! You have no idea what will happen, and you might even find that being less close with these people is good for you in a way that you cannot currently conceive. The present version of you doesn’t know the path of future you, or what they may need and want, and this idea should be liberating. There are so many people you haven’t yet met, and things you haven’t experienced, so any assumptions you make about the future are ill-founded. All anyone can do, especially in an era of a pandemic, is only deal with the near-future and live more in the moment. Try to ask yourself, what is best for you right now? What will enhance your wellbeing? What can you control in your current moment?

Q2: I’ve sorta started dating a guy during lockdown – obvs all online – how do I stop missing him and keep the romance alive?

It really wouldn’t be a YCA column without a question about dating, would it? First of all, major props to you for actually managing to date during these, wait for it, ~unprecedented~ times. Personally, I cannot relate, but that’s not going to stop me from sharing my unqualified opinion with you! Let’s dive into the details…

To be perfectly honest, the moment I read the phrase ‘sorta started dating’, alarm bells sounded in my brain. Maybe that’s just me projecting my own aversion to unclear and undefined situations, but I do think it’s hard to ‘keep the romance alive’ when the boundaries haven’t been clearly defined. So, that’s probably the first thing you need to address.

Beyond that, call me a cynic, call me old-fashioned, but I’m not that convinced that you can really seriously date someone you’ve only interacted with online. Sure, it might be the path into a future relationship, but in itself, I don’t think it’s enough. Continue what you’ve been doing so far but, above all, establish where this is going more clearly.

And if you miss him, perhaps you can message or call him? As well as this, try to look within, and ask yourself: “Do you really miss him, or the idea of him?” and “is there actually any romance to be kept alive, or do you just desperately want there to be?” Answering these questions honestly will signpost you along the right path of action.

Q3: I’m worried about staying motivated and focused whilst studying from home…

A really good way to get yourself to start working is promising yourself a reward; tell yourself you can watch another episode of Brooklyn 99 if you get your work done by 7pm, or tell yourself you can have a square of your favourite chocolate as soon as you finish. But while this is a good motivational method for getting yourself working, this doesn’t factor in the specific motivational issues that come with working at home.

One of the biggest challenges of being at home is distractions. Parents, siblings, pets and notifications from friends all lure us away from work and often it can be hard to refocus on the task at hand once you’re interrupted. You can stay motivated by trying to limit the distractions and interruptions you experience. This can include putting your phone on silent and asking family members to leave you alone until you have finished a specific task.  It’s especially important to establish some boundaries and ground rules about what constitutes a legitimate reason for them interrupting you while working.

Equally, the lack of structure can make it incredibly difficult to focus.  It’s a situation that a lot of people find familiar; without a structured workday, time seems to just get away from you. You might find that you start shifting your workdays later and later as you sip an extra cup of coffee. Then, your work hours extend later into the evenings, which causes you to stay up later at night, as well.  Or you might find that you easily get off track or distracted while working. And projects that used to take 20 minutes are suddenly lasting two hours. That’s why it’s important to have a clear schedule. Set a time to begin and end work and try to stick to it as much as you can.

It is also really important to make sure you have a dedicated workspace. Working in bed is very tempting – it’s comfy, warm and relaxing.  But your subconscious will inevitably end up associating your bed with work, and that can interfere with your sleep and make your productivity even worse.  So even though your bed might feel like a comfortable spot, create a workspace somewhere else. A desk or even the kitchen table is definitely a preferable alternative. By maintaining a healthy separation between rest and work you will be practising some great self-care, which will ultimately make you healthier and help you perform at your peak.

Q4: I’m kinda worried that I’m in my current relationship out of boredom and because of lockdown.. what should I do?

We’re in a pandemic. Casual dating hasn’t been possible and you may have found yourself becoming serious with someone. In many ways it has been a perfect time, you can provide one another with companionship and emotional support at a time when a lot of people felt lonely and, let’s face it, bored. But if you are in a relationship to ease that boredom of your pandemic social life, that is a real issue. Let’s start off by saying that it is much better to be single than in a relationship you don’t really want. In fact, there is nothing wrong with being single

Part of being ready for a relationship is being sure that you are in it for the right reasons. It’s helpful to remind yourself that your relationship should make you happy, and that your partner is not a placeholder. If you are in a relationship because you are bored (and on a deeper level maybe needy, lonely, or struggling to be independent), it is important to recognise that this is not fair on either of you — you are using your partner, and also stopping yourself from learning how to be content on your own.

Can you pinpoint what exactly you like about them? Do you get on well as people? Personality is ultimately what matters and you need to make sure you are dating someone who you get on with on a personal level (and finding them attractive helps a lot as well!). If you have that, it’s a winning combination. So if you really like them, this is probably a natural worry, but if you know deep down that you are only with them for a sort of entertainment, make sure you are upfront about that.

Well, that’s all from us this week…

If you haven’t already listened to our podcast, what are you doing? Seriously, it’s a remote term, what else are you doing with your time? And, while you’re at it you may as well give us a follow on Instagram (@yourcollegeaunts).


Your College Aunts x

Have any worries?

Here is the link for next week, submit to your heart’s content.

Want to be the next Gleb?

Did you ever find yourself listening to the podcast last term thinking that you could’ve added something interesting to the discussion? Well, here’s your chance to be a guest on the podcast! All you need to do is fill out this form proposing a theme for an episode and tell us why you think you would be a great guest. Go on, apply! What have you got to lose?

Featured image credit: Leila Lawrence and Amira Nandhla