The Tab’s Guide to Cambridge from Home: How we survived Easter 2020

Here’s how to survive an online term, from people who’ve done it before

The email we’ve all been dreading pings into your inbox… it’s Toope, and he says we won’t see the inside of our college accommodation until April. Deja vu anyone? I wasn’t aware time travel had been invented during lockdown but oh well, it seems we’re back in 2020 and will be doing yet another term from home. 

Of course, for the first years amongst us, this is an altogether new experience. But that doesn’t mean us experienced survivors are anymore happy about the prospect of an entire term from our childhood bedrooms – whether you’re a first year or not,  it somehow feels like we’ve all been massively crushed by the workload of week one.

If you’re wondering how on earth you’re going to get through the next seven weeks, worry not. Here’s your chance to get advice from the *cracks knuckles* seasoned professionals, all those second and third years who dragged themselves through a work-from-home term in Easter 2020 and are still – just about – standing: 

Form some semblance of a routine 

My daily structure revolves solely around Zoom at this point… (Image: Matilda Head)

Whilst it can be tempting to spend the entirety of lockdown three in bed, Angela from Trinity stressed the importance of “try[ing] to get a legitimate schedule, so your days don’t feel chaotic but also meaningless”, which I cannot stress enough. Speaking from personal experience, waking up just in time to catch Boris’ 5pm conferences was not the right way to go about studying from home. Whilst I am more productive in the evening, starting the day as the sun was setting was a bit of a downer and didn’t quite foster that productive atmosphere. 

The same applies to eating, without the structured times of your college catering, your meal schedule can rapidly deteriorate. Whilst cereal for dinner may help you recreate those student accommodation vibes, take advantage of having more than just alcohol in the fridge. In the last lockdown, I actually cooked more than I ever did during my first term, so, if you have the resources, capitalise on the chance to improve your culinary skills, just for the chance to flex them over housemates when we’re finally allowed back to our sacred gyps. 

Fitting social time around studying will also help you feel like you’re not actually being buried under work. A remote university term means you’re getting all the work with none of the fun of living with friends that normally acts as a work break. Recreating that with a Zoom quiz – if you can handle any more of them – or just a chat is just that little refuel that might help you reach the end of the day without a breakdown. 

Create a dreamy WFH set-up

My ‘soft office’ is my one true love (Image: Matilda Head)

Take advantage of the chance to be as comfy as possible when doing your work, some may say that working from your bed isn’t the best way to be productive but as a third year from Selwyn said: “If there’s one positive to the pandemic, it’s being able to do lectures from bed.” Cambridge from home is HARD, if you want to watch a lecture under a pile of blankets with a pile of chocolate then you do you, it’s the little things and comforts that get us through. 

Talking of comforts, use this opportunity to ditch the jeans and prioritise comfort; I’ve said it 1,000 times, but truly skinny jeans SUCK…so much. I came to this revelation after wearing only comfy clothes for the entirety of Easter term 2020. Who invented these leg prisons and why have I been wearing them for most of my life? You don’t know joy until you’ve been to a supervision half (or fully – I’m not judging) dressed in pyjamas.

Most importantly, remember that most things in your room are now your Zoom background, and I can attest to the fact that your supervisors seem rather concerned if they spot the two bottles of Disaronno on your bedside table (it was a hard term okay). Similarly, it might be time to update your decor if your childhood room hasn’t migrated to adulthood yet – although I won’t pretend I didn’t shed a tear as I had to remove my treasured One Direction poster from the wall. 

Have a break… have a KitKat

Honestly, at this point, Cadbury’s Marvellous Creations is all that’s getting me through lockdown.

The two things keeping me from collapsing during term-from-home (Image: Matilda Head)

I won’t lie to you, Cambridge from home is a big struggle, so be kind to yourself, and find some little things to do outside of your work, or that bring you some little bits of happiness amongst the work-induced breakdowns. 

For Katie, it was the weekly cakes from her Mum on deadline day to alleviate some of the stress (Mum if you’re reading this, please stop slacking, where are my weekly cakes), and for Ella, it’s liquid drum and bass, I won’t lie I don’t know what this is but she says: “It’s like lo-fi beats but it keeps you awake and reminds you of going out.” Sounds good to me, work without the release of going out is torture so I’ll try anything to get that feeling back. 

Poppy also advocates for having a side project outside of degree work, as Selwyn freshers’ rep last year, she said that planning Freshers’ Week was, albeit stressful amidst Covid, a great way to switch off from work. With this in mind, why not make Lent 2021 the year you join a new society? With a lot less commitment required given we cannot actually leave the house, it’s the perfect time to get involved with something or try something new. 

It’s going to be hard

Summed up perfectly by Joe Price from Selwyn when I asked how he survived Easter 2020: “I didn’t.”

A common reaction to me actually getting some uni work done (Image: Matilda Head)

A full workload from home combined with the approach of the exam term with no safety net equals one very stressed student. Studying from home inevitably leads to less productivity, especially if there’s no one else around you to hold you accountable or make you feel guilty for not working. 

Personally, I procrastinate to a hellish extent, and it’s often the guilt or second-hand stress that I receive from housemates that gives me the push to work, and I know that I will absolutely struggle to work this term. I apologise in advance to all my supervisors for the kind of work I’ll end up turning in this term. Plus, the pain of knowing almost a third of my degree won’t have actually taken place in Cambridge is real, I never thought I could miss a city so much. 

When I get stressed about assignments and studying, my Mum often reminds me to think “will this matter in five years,” and realistically, I’m not going to look back on this time in five years and think of it as when I handed in a few sub-par essays. Instead, it’ll be the year that I made it through a literal pandemic. Because it honestly does not matter if your essays aren’t all first class, or you have to ask for a few extensions – just please look after yourself this term!

At this point, all that’s left to say is good luck, and fingers crossed for Easter term actually in Cambridge. 

Related articles recommended by this author:

Culture Trip: Everything you need to help ease that Week Two grind

Everything Cambridge students need to normalise during online Lent term

How to survive a lockdown in Cambridge: From someone who has done it before