By Ania Melgar, Jade Romain, Christina Barnes, and Oluyinka Olusoji

There are times when you may have to switch up the way you’re used to learning, working, and living your life in general. Sometimes you may find yourself thrown into a whirlwind of a situation that evolves rapidly and changes your whole world–a lot of us are in this type of situation right now.

This isn’t something totally new for a lot of international students, though: if you move to a new country to pursue your degree, you may find yourself kind of isolated during the first few days or even weeks until classes start. You may not know anyone and your apartment is as far as you will venture out. Sometimes there may be storms, floods, snow days, or health risks that call for adapting to a new way of doing ordinary things.

If you’re having to learn in a virtual environment, or work remotely, you will soon discover that it’s very easy to fall into the trap of watching Netflix in bed all day every day if you’re isolated like this, but don’t give in! Here are some ways you can stay happy, connected, active, and productive.

Staying in touch and fostering a support network

It is often said that ‘change is the only constant thing in life’. Although it is not certain how and when change will happen, we have to learn to adapt to new and challenging circumstances.

Sometimes you may be forced to stay home and distance yourself from friends and family to keep them and your community healthy. Sometimes, you may just be in a situation where you are far away from your loved ones because you’ve moved to another country or out of state for school.

Whatever the situation may be, remember that you are not alone! Staying in touch and giving support to one another is of great importance and there are so many ways to communicate with those you care about.

  • Reach out to the people you care about!

Pick up that phone or laptop and check in on your friends and family! Let people know that you are here and that you care. We can video call our friends and loved ones via apps and software like WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook, and other social media services.

We can even have conference calls with many people at once! This way, we can stay in touch even though we can’t physically be there with our loved ones and friends. We all need one another, so make sure to take the initiative and communicate with others several times a day.

It is easy to get bored if you are on your own, but talking to people helps a lot. Giving someone a call or sending someone a message can make their day and yours.

  • Get creative!

Staying indoors also gives you the opportunity to get creative–you can play games together, cook, bake, and do other fun stuff even if you and your loved ones are separated by thousands of miles.

Doing activities together helps strengthen the bonds of family and friendship. This is an opportunity to get to know people better, show them care, and learn something new about yourself and others!

Getting exercise – however possible

Exercise is a critical component in maintaining both your physical and mental health. Sometimes there may be situations where getting regular exercise becomes more of a challenge–especially in situations where you have to stay home. Though it is challenging, it is not impossible. Here are a few ways you can get your exercise in if you’re at home:

  • Set up an exercise schedule. You can do some form of exercise every day or perhaps 3 days a week. Set up a schedule and stick to it!
  • Follow the University of Arkansas Recreation (UREC) Instagram account (they have daily exercise routines) or search YouTube for at-home exercise routines. You can even use household items and furniture as tools for different exercises like bench presses, squats, etc.
  • Walk or jog around your yard or apartment complex. Bring your pet with you for extra fun! It might not be a lot but every little bit of exercise produces endorphins and helps boost your mood.

Staying busy and productive

Having to stay at home doesn’t have to stunt your potential. If you find yourself having to take classes online, it’s important to make sure you stay on top of things.

Now as I enter week 2 of virtual learning, I’ve realized it’s easy for the days to blend together. In order to keep up productivity, I recommend maintaining a daily schedule.

Keep a calendar with due dates marked so they don’t surprise you, and work through projects a little bit at a time to prevent having to work all night to catch up!

During the day, set your working hours and stick to them. Doing this will only take a few hours out of your day or night but it will help you make sure you don’t fall behind on video lectures or conference calls. These hacks will help keep you on track in all your classes.

Besides staying busy with your schoolwork, there are other ways to make the most of your time at home. We live in a digital age with digital opportunities and I, for one, plan to take advantage of them by learning something new. There are several online learning platforms like Udemy or LinkedIn Learning (formerly that offer courses you can take at your own pace with additional time you may have.

There are courses that range from coding to cooking to languages to music to yoga to finances. The University of Arkansas offers its students the opportunity to use LinkedIn Learning at no additional cost, so you have many opportunities to add more skills to your resume.

There are also Instagram and Facebook Live seminars where businesses and celebrities are providing advice and services, too. Facebook also has a “Watch Party” feature, so you can take dance classes or listen to a seminar with a group of interested friends–that’s a great way to beat the blues if you can’t be close to your friends or family!

Staying organized

Keeping things organized is closely tied to staying productive. It can be hard to be productive if your work space, home, or schedule is all over the place. Here are some things to be mindful of that will help keep you on track.

  • Routines are your friend

When you set a schedule for your work day and work week, implement deadlines for yourself and set specific goals that you keep yourself accountable for.

If you live in a cluttered space with a scattered schedule as many of us do, then you will not have the time or space to make your deadlines or achieve your goals. The longer you wait to do something, the more difficult it will be to get it done.

If you want your life to be less stressful and less demanding, then get to organizing as soon as you can–don’t wait to do the dishes, don’t wait to answer your emails, and don’t wait until the last minute to do your assignments. Stick to the golden rule: if a task will take you less than 5 minutes, do it right away!

  • Less clutter–less worries

It is easy to lose things if they don’t have a home. Keeping your space organized means keeping things in their proper places. Make it easy to access storage spaces for things that you use all the time. This will help with not letting your storage spaces get cluttered.

Try to find time each week to organize your home. Things don’t stay organized on their own, and it’s easy to leave your coffee mug on your bedside table for the next couple of weeks after you’re done with it! You need to remember that your things must be reorganized continuously for your spaces to stay tidy.

If you find that you feel a bit suffocated by your environment because of all the things you have–try getting rid of some! This is a great opportunity for you to reevaluate what you need and what’s just taking up space.

Always remember: be patient, practice kindness, and stay connected! We are all in this together.