City & University

Studying at home is a challenge – tried an added time difference yet?

Does sitting in front of your laptop for eight hours a day to follow online classes sound familiar? Studying from home is a challenge for most students now in times of Corona, when most of one’s social contacts are either roommates or people that you can only see in bad quality on your own screen. Online education is tough, but for some students there are some additional obstacles put in their way: One of them is studying with a time difference.

Fatima and Shrriya are international students of psychology in their second year at the University of Groningen. However, both are following classes from their respective home countries. While Fatima is following classes from Lima, Peru six hours behind Dutch time, Shrriya finds herself four and half hours ahead logging in from Delhi in India. This leads not only to a complete change in their study habits, but also in their daily routines.

“Studying with time difference is a challenge”, says Fatima with regard to her classes being scheduled between 4 and 10 AM Peruvian time and her exams, even worse, taking place between 2 and 6 AM. She explains that the biggest challenge for her are exams where she, due to the lack of sleep of the exam being late at night, cannot concentrate properly. Shrriya is luckier in this regard: As a result of being ahead of Dutch time, she has most of her classes after lunch and in the evening. Sometimes she attends a practical that starts at 10.30 PM her time, but that is doable, she says. Her greatest challenge is to motivate herself for studying in the mornings before her actual classes because that is something she would usually do in the afternoon. Yet this is, as Shrriya puts it, “not really a challenge, you just need more motivation.”

Without a doubt, in order to study with time difference, students have to develop some techniques to cope with being behind or ahead their university’s time. Fatima’s most important recommendation is “Sleep, whenever you can!” For her, that implies going to bed between 9 or 10 PM, even if she does not have classes the next day, so that her brain gets used to it. It also entails that she does not attend classes that are not mandatory as “it is wiser to save your energy for when you absolutely need it.” Furthermore, she advises everyone in the same situation to stay positive and look at the bright side which made herself, for instance, be happy about a class being postponed from 2 to 5.30 AM. Shrriya explains that she turned herself into a night owl since she noticed that she is a lot more motivated to study after her classes. Studying at night messes with her sleep cycle from time to time, but at least she can sleep a little bit longer in the mornings due to her classes only starting after lunch.

The question how life continues if you are living some hours of time behind, while the rest of you environment is not, Shrriya answered by explaining that in general, her family or friends time is not too much affected. This is because of Covid19, she is not able to go out much anyways. But of course her social life has, like for many others as well, been reduced. However, she has to sacrifice family time during dinner due to her classes taking place during dinner time. Nonetheless, Shrriya notes “I am pampered at home, I don’t have to cook and sometimes I’m given food at desk”, so her family is really considerate of her situation. Fatima tells that with her friends there is no issue because she cannot communicate with them without waking up early. Unfortunately, she explains, she is very sleep-deprived in general at the moment. Furthermore, she finds it hard to balance her mental wellbeing on the one side, while on the other side she has to keep up with her academic work.

Therefore, in her opinion there are no real advantages of studying with a time difference like hers – only that some teachers and peers are sympathetic to her situation and accept that her classes takes place in the middle of the night. Nevertheless, as already mentioned, Fatima tries to look on the bright side which helps her to find motivation – this helps her to get up latest 5 AM every day. Shrriya, on the other hand, thinks that an advantage of her situation right now is that she can spend some time with her family – even if that entails sharing her study space with her little brother.

Studying with time difference has an impact on their student lives. Therefore, it is no surprise that both of them are looking forward to coming back to Groningen for the second semester to finally return to normal life, or at least to a life as normal is it can be in times of Corona.

The 3-hour time difference is still kicking my butt. - Imgflip


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