Connected Conversations | Yeganeh Soltanpour

In our latest edition of Connected Conversations, third year psychology student Yeganeh imparted some great tips about how she is staying organised to manage online learning and how she reduced the pressure she was placing on herself. She also shared what she misses about being on campus.

Yeganeh Soltanpour

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Yeganeh and I’m a big city girl who found her way into Adelaide about three years ago to pursue a career in psychology after receiving a scholarship from the University of Adelaide. I’m from Iran and the United Arab Emirates, which confuses people because they don’t know where it is until I tell them I’m from Dubai. This usually results in me in hearing, ‘oh, I was in Dubai airport once!’ I love living in a smaller city and the peace it brings. I’m currently in my third year, studying a Bachelor of Psychological Science. Along the way, I’ve completed two industry internships, volunteered for over 965 hours (both in and out of Uni), joined three clubs, made a ton of friends, became an (amateur) weightlifter for South Australia and most importantly, hoarded loads of plants! I live in a house in Hillcrest with my cousins, our dog Milo (yes like the choccy milk), and my 100+ odd plants.

How have you adapted to learning online?

Organisation, organsiation, and more organisation! I was generally an organised person before, but a lot of that was scrapped when the change in routine came along. I re-thought the whole way I went about studying because when my weeks were dissolved into the same-ish kind of days, it was hard to keep track of time and the days of the week. First, I had to set up a ‘work’ schedule, which consisted of a simple alarm, having coffee at the same time every day and setting up many Google calendar reminders. Something I also do now is note down the exact days' that new lectures go up and what they would be about. Usually, when you show up to a lecture you can get away with not doing a lot of pre-planning, but keeping up with four online classes is like watching four different TV series and you somehow never remember what happened in the last episode. I downloaded a few apps (such as Flora, Aloe Bud and Easy Study) that helped during this transition. So, I guess the biggest change would be the incorporation of more apps in my study routine, which makes it easier to use my phone as something to boost productiveness rather than be a distraction. I tried to mimic my regular study routine as much as possible, which consists of making a coffee, setting my Pomodoro timer and just focusing. A few things I did that enhanced my online study experience was investing in a good set of headphones to drown out distracting sounds. I also got a raised laptop stand so that I wouldn’t hurt my neck and back while constantly looking down at my laptop, which made sitting at the table and studying bearable.

What innovation have you seen that’s been really impressive?

There have been quite a few things I came across that have been around for a while that I only discovered during this time. For example, I haven’t utilised the existence of online books and research papers until now. I was a little old fashioned and preferred to go into the library to source books and papers to read. However, since I was unable to use the library for a while, I discovered so many different sites and applications I was able to use to read books and papers online.

What do you miss about being on campus?

There are things I didn’t even think of before, that I now miss about being on campus. I miss being able to randomly bump into my friends in the Hub and making plans with them to go somewhere later on. I miss being able to study in different places and being able to simply walk over to the Hub area and grab a freshly made, strong, barista-quality coffee anytime I pleased. I miss the liveliness on campus... for me a big part of the Uni experience is being on campus. It’s what made studying fun. I loved our ‘camping trips’ (as my friends and I called them). This would usually involve us staying all night in the Hub and helping each other study for our exams. I miss being able to sit in lectures and see my professors talk, as it brings the teaching to life. I miss seeing my peers in tutorials. However, most of all, I miss my regular volunteering as part of the international peer mentors. Seeing all the international students, organising events and being able to contribute to my university is what I miss the most.

What do you hope will be one of the enduring changes to University life in the future?

A potential change would be to find new ways to incorporate technology into our daily lives. Zoom meetings have been so beneficial during this time that I hope that the University will continue to incorporate them into the teaching in the future. I was able to have meetings with University support staff or the writing centre from the comfort of my own home. Although this may not always be ideal, for a short meeting that can be done online, I found this more effective than being on campus. As the Vice-President of the Women in Space Exploration club at the University, I don't think we will ever stop hosting online events – our last event ended up attracting not only 30 or so students from the University of Adelaide, but also about 10 or so people from all around the world!

Have you felt any pressure to make this time ‘more’ productive?

Oh boy! I enrolled myself into two extra online courses from Harvard, took up a new hobby and thought of three new business ideas during this time. It was like payday and I suddenly had so much money to spare, until the bills came along. I thought more time at home suddenly meant I had time to spare, which I was wrong about. I was definitely one of those people who put ‘more pressure’ on everyone else to do more during this time. In the beginning, I was posting often about my online courses, my new hobby and even shared snippets of my potential business ideas on my social media! I quickly realised that this wasn’t sustainable. When the high of ‘all this free time’ was discontinued and the deadlines were catching up to me, I knew that I couldn’t continue the way I was. I learned that now more than ever, people are looking through social media and what they see might affect them more than it would have before. When I went on my runs, worked out or spent time painting I was mindful about posting about it, just to avoid making anyone feel like they should have been more productive during this time too. When I saw people doing good, I would cheer them on. Everyone's coping differently during this time and no one should judge others for how they have chosen to make use of their time.

Have you started any new rituals?

One ritual my partner and I have implemented is Netflix watch parties with our friends to replace the outings we used to have together. We don’t do this based on a schedule which makes it more relaxed. We also use Zoom during the watch party to mimic having everyone there (it's not as much fun unless you get to talk about the movie as you watch it!) I have made it a strict habit to call my mom and dad every single day and so far for the past three months, I haven’t missed a single day. This also goes for the 'mandatory' family dinner/baking session/ movie session or gathering that we have every Sunday night just to catch up on the week and what we’ve been getting up to.

Quickfire questions!

Getting dressed for work or staying in pj’s?

All I’m going to say is if they can't see it, they’ll never know its there!

Needing colleagues to bounce ideas off of or loving the quiet to get into the zone?

Definitely need the colleagues, thank goodness for Zoom.

Uber Eats or home-cooked meals?

Home-cooked meals all the way.

Baking your own sourdough or eating what’s left in the freezer?

Making sourdough because I like making things harder for myself.

Scheduled vs unscheduled?

Scheduled 100% (but being spontaneous doesn’t hurt either unless you have something due, then ouch!)

Reading or binge-watching Netflix?

Reading while using a Netflix show for background noise, I feel less lonely (that sounded a lot less sad in my head!)

Good weather makes it easier working from home or bad weather?

Good weather!

Name three things you won’t miss about this current moment in time.

Having to ask neighbours for toilet paper a few times (yikes!)

Not being able to see my friends/family

Feeling useless sometimes (especially when I couldn’t do much to help small businesses)

And the three things you won’t forget…

I won't forget the staff, professors, and tutorial instructors that went the extra mile to help us understand content online. They would create extra content, including providing detailed slides and even hold extra tutorials even when they didn't have to. Their dedication to our learning experience was beyond amazing and I won't forget what they did for us.

I definitely won't forget my friends, family and partners' constant support and efforts to make time isolated at home a lot more bearable. Without them, I really wouldn't have been having it as easy as I am now. If it was their constant calls, texts, and occasional meal drop-offs that got me through this time, and I will never forget their kindness.

I definitely won't forget to make better use of where my money goes when I need to buy something. I now know smaller businesses will need our support more than ever. So if I need a coffee, I’ll go to one which couldn’t keep its doors open during this time and help them get back on their feet.

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