You're not alone

Combatting lockdown loneliness

Well... it's been quite the year already. And it's only April. In these uncertain times, retaining a bit of normality is key. We’ve put together a list of ways that you can keep in touch with your course mates, friends and family.

If someone had asked after Christmas what was going to be the focus this term, we probably would have said deadlines? Exams? Winning Varsity? (Maybe). A global pandemic was definitely not high on that list, especially not with the combination of social distancing. 

Now more than ever it's so important to retain some sense of normality. And at the moment whilst physical distance is key, this doesn't mean we can't all stay in touch with each other. We've put together a bunch of ways that you can keep in touch with your course mates, friends and family. Be it to finish your group project, or binge watch the newest Netflix series with mates. 

Collaborating on projects

Without the opportunity to bounce ideas off of other people and having the local resources, some will have been left without the opportunity to finish group work. Here's out top suggestions for how you can carry on studying socially online:

Google Suite and Hangouts is something you're already probably pretty familiar with. Or will have at least heard of. G-Suite allows you to collaborate on work across all of its apps. Whether you all want to collaborate on a presentation (using Google Slides), need to share numbers in a spreadsheet (Google Sheets) or discuss all of this as a group on a video call (Google Hangouts), G-Suite has everything you need to keep working together when you can't all be in the same room. 

WebEx is available through the University Apps Anywhere service, so you can download it onto your computer. This program lets you host or attend online meeting to discuss any ongoing work or projects. It allows video calling, voice chats and file sharing, you can even open a screen on your computer to annotate files as a group and then save if you need to. Being able to review the same piece of work at the same time can be a lifesaver - having that discussion and making notes that every member of the group can see. You can even record the meeting as a whole so that you can revisit discussions you've had or to transcribe if you're more of a minute taker. 

We've got another online workspace, where you can digitally chat and collaborate with your course mates. Unlike other platforms, this is an ongoing place where you can record and share your thoughts. Slack has a continuous chat function that saves a dialogue that you can refer back to. It lets you share files and information with the rest of the group without having to remember or cover everything that you may need to within a single digital meeting. This flexibility is handy for if you're working in critical services (a massive thank you!) or with childcare responsibilities who possibly can't be free at the same time as everyone else. 

You guessed it, we've found another app! Zoom allows you to create a digital meeting space, with or without camera, share files and generally collaborate on a project or idea. 

Catching up with friends and family

University work is incredibly important, but so is taking time away for yourself and the other people in your life. There are so many ways that you can stay in touch with everyone digitally and see all of the people's faces you might feel like you're starting to forget! 

This app is a little newer to the scene. You can use it to stay social with your friends and family whilst social distancing. The app will let you know when your nearest and dearest are using the app and in 'the house'. When you know they're in you can join them - they will also be notified when you go online, so you can catch each other at the same time. 

The OG of online video calling - you know the drill when it comes to Skype. 

If you don't, here's what you need to know. Skype gives you free international video calling that you can use anywhere, from desktop to phone. You can use it as a web browser on a desktop or download the app and video call your loved ones. 

This is the perfect thing for keeping up on your favourite shows together. Who hasn't got time during these times to catch up about Tiger King? Or RuPaul? Or even Litchfield Prison, if you're a little further behind. Netflix party lets you synchronise your viewing of a show with friends and have a chat about it at the same time. No more awkward browser lag when you need to break for the bathroom. What more could you want? 

Just for fun

It's also important to take some time for yourself just to have fun. Even if you can't get out and do the things that you usually would, it doesn't mean you can't make your own fun at home - be it alone or with friends. 

Here are our suggestions for how you can unwind from work and studying and have a bit of a laugh.

On the app store, online, or a games console, there are loads of ways that you can play games with friends and family or even solo. This way you can connect with people casually and take a break from studying. 

Why not try:

  • Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp
  • Mario Kart Tour
  • Minecraft
  • Fortnite 

Also, have you heard of Discord?

So Discord can work as a web browser or as a downloaded app on desktops and phones/tablets. It's a free app that combines voice chat (like Skype or Teamspeak) with the chat function (like Internet Relay Chat and various other services). Create forums, private chats, talk to friends while you're all working on the same game, fighting in the same RPG or casually talk while you're having your own chill time on your Animal Crossing island. 

You might think you're a little old for finger painting. And you'd be absolutely wrong. Feel the paint! 

But on a serious note, now is a great time to rediscover some crafts. Whether you're a fan of painting, cross stitch, crosswords, puzzles, wood carving or bullet journalling, give it a go. YouTube has a bunch of amazing tutorials on how to start from scratch, or pick up a forgotten hobby. 

Are you a fan of musicals or the theatre? Missing that atmosphere and watching the stage. The Show Must Go On, has it covered. The channel brings you show tunes, backstage access and full performances from some of the most beloved musicals. 

Alternatively if you're more of a fan of Shakespeare, Rob Myles has created The Show Must Go Online which creates live readings of Shakespeare plays. Bring the magic of the bard into your home. 

If you're finding it difficult to concentrate on a physical book, or using the screen on your Kindle is hurting your eyes more, why not give an audiobook a go? Audible has a free trial session to give thousands of books a go from the comfort of your home without worrying about accidentally folding the book of the favourite page. 

Podcasts are also a great way to spend an evening. Streaming services like Spotify have thousands of podcasts on a whole range of topics, where people talk about a range of topics, giving backstage stories or discussing opinions of projects.. Whether you're a fan of drag, product reviews, fairy tales, history or a really specific type of folk music, you can probably find a podcast for it. 

Or if you're more into some personal development

This is the perfect time to learn a new skill, or develop one of your existing ones. There are thousands of resources to learn digitally for free, why not give something different a try?

Through the University's subscription, you have access to a huge wealth of courses on LinkedIn learning (formerly From graphic design, to excel spreadsheets, the knowledge you can find on the site is seemingly unlimited, and you can add all of your training directly onto your LinkedIn profile to show off your new skills to future employers!

There are also other online platforms where free learning is readily available without access to the University services. For example, Open University has an extensive range of free courses online, varying in subject and length; great for you, or any dependants/partners/friends that you are in social isolation with to start learning something a bit different. 

Already planning trips for after the lockdown is lifted? Why not learn the language of the next place on your travel list? DuoLingo allows you to learn a number of languages completely free of charge, be it French, Japanese, Hungarian, or High Valyrian (for those of you who have had enough time now to forgive the producers for the final season of Game of Thrones…)

Have you ever thought about turning your hand to coding? Or maybe you're figuring out a good way to fill the time while kids are away from school? Why not give the Khan Academy a try? The provide free resources and training on learning to code. 

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