19 May 2020

How to stay productive, strong and calm

Mellisa Chin Lee
Malaysian PhD student

Studying abroad can be daunting, especially in this challenging time. As we are coming to the end of week 4 of the lockdown in New Zealand, there are a few good things that I have learnt.

I often wonder, “Why is this happening to me?” and realised that there is a silver lining to every cloud. It’s when we are put through difficult times in our lives that we are able to grow.

As a full-time PhD student, it is important for me to adjust to the “new normal” and these are my 3 tips to stay productive, strong, and calm throughout your academic journey.

1. Be Productive - "Zooming" for workshops/classes

With the university shutting down physically, the universities are turning to online workshops/classes via Zoom.

At the University of Waikato, the library offers a variety of courses for higher degree students every month such as “NVivo for Data Analysis” (of which I highly recommend), “Getting Started with EndNote”, “APA Referencing”, and many others.

Nonetheless, it can be slightly frustrating when you experience a tremendous amount of lag and having your webcam or audio not work on Zoom!

Zoom workshop

2. Be Strong - Stay connected to your loved ones

It’s normal to feel homesick or alone as an international student. It is a natural part of getting used to a new culture and environment. However, in the wake of the current COVID-19 situation, these emotions are further intensified!

Therefore, at moments when I feel lonely or worried, I try to communicate with my friends and family back home through WhatsApp calls and let them know how I’m feeling. Sometimes, it would be just a 5-minute video call to get a glimpse of their faces.

Staying connected to my loved ones gives me the reassurance that everything will be okay!

A screenshot of my video call – featuring Maya (a furry family member) and my lovely mom – plus journaling with comfy pants!

3. Be calm - Take time to meditate

Along with the lockdown, a feeling of uncertainty and panic will sometimes take over.

To stay calm, I often meditate when I am struggling to quiet my mind. For example, it could be something as simple as sitting down at a quiet corner, closing my eyes, taking a few deep breaths, reflect on the 5 things that I am thankful for and journal it.

Through reading and looking back at what I have meditated on, it will help me to divert negative thoughts to something positive – e.g. being grateful.

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About the contributors
Mellisa Chin Lee
Malaysian PhD student

Armed with a huge penchant for animals, Mellisa is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Waikato in hopes to make an impact on the lives of children with disabilities back in her home country, Malaysia, in the future.