I Tried: Following an NYC School Schedule From Home

Seven months since the start of quarantine, one student returns to her pre-pandemic routine while studying remotely.

A student tries to follow their pre-pandemic schedule while attending school remotely. Madison San Miguel discusses some of the ways she brings NYC back home. (Photo by Madison San Miguel)

As we continue to live in a world still operating under pandemic precautions, it’s hard to distinguish life from when we were first sent home over spring break last semester versus where we stand at the start of this fall semester. It has been a while since I have been in New York City, and I long to go back every day. I miss the unique smell of the 14th Street – Union Square subway station and the late night trips with friends to Joe’s Pizza. For the past seven months, I have been back into my high school bedroom, reliving the life I had before college.

One of the main challenges that I’ve faced is being stuck in a monotonous routine. From daily walks around my neighborhood to my inconsistent sleep schedule, I have grown tired of living the same reality every day. Since a large portion of students and professionals have had to transfer their work life to their homes, many are also forgoing connection and community, which experts predict to have negative mental health consequences. I find that I enjoy change, so I was eager to take on this challenge to recreate my pre-pandemic college routine and see if my productivity and energy would benefit.

My first day adjusting to my old routine was the most challenging. Since my pre-pandemic self was never able to sustain an entire school day without an early meal, breakfast was a must. I opted to wake up earlier to account for the time I would have spent commuting and getting breakfast, though I wanted to remain in bed. Although I was used to waking up early for my classes, getting out of bed 30 to 45 minutes earlier only became more difficult each day.

I decided to turn my kitchen into a gloomier version of Downstein Dining Hall. I prepared a mini breakfast buffet by scattering a few small bowls of scrambled eggs and potatoes on my countertop in place of a buffet bar.

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At first, I enjoyed pampering myself with a familiar dish, but as the week went by, my version of a Downstein breakfast buffet became more and more somber, especially without the precursory experience of walking down Downstein’s famed spiral staircase.

Although my mini buffet became increasingly disappointing, I soon began to pick up other old habits. I had been forgetting to make my bed and to organize the desk in my bedroom. I used to regularly tidy up my room at school, so this was one aspect of my pre-pandemic routine that I found I had (surprisingly) missed once I started doing it again. Beginning my days with a small goal of organization reminded me why I made keeping my room neat a habit initially.

A major part of my routine that has fallen through over the past few months has been dressing up everyday. My clothing of choice nowadays consists of baggy sweatshirts and sweatpants. Because I am no longer intimidated by the stylish New York City dwellers in the streets, my fashion sense has drifted toward comfort. For this challenge, it was crucial for me to trade my sweatpants for more realistic school attire. Throughout the week, my outfits switched between skirts and dresses, which provided around the same level of comfort as my sweatpants. Even though dressing up for remote classes kept me more attentive, I still ended up preferring my quarantine style because it helps me avoid the stress of choosing an outfit each day.

Having spent most of my recent time at home, I felt continuously confined during quarantine. Whether I was doing schoolwork, attending lectures or writing for my internship, my dining room habitually became my preferred space to work. To avoid the feeling of being restricted to a single area, I decided to alter my current routine by moving to the living room when I worked for my internship, while my time spent attending lectures remained in the dining room.

To match my routine in the city, it was more realistic to separate these spaces because I used to commute to Brooklyn before class for my internship. I miss the time spent commuting, but I can’t deny that my brisk walk from the dining table to the living room couch is a lot more peaceful than riding the R train.

I chose my bedroom as the place to do my schoolwork. It was difficult to concentrate in a more enclosed space — especially with my bed being in close proximity — but separating these spaces makes me feel less restricted overall.

As many of us are continuing to attend school remotely, it is important that we all find a routine that accommodates us mentally. Though there’s no perfect replacement for the New York City experience I had before I left the city, I plan on continuing to include some aspects of my pre-pandemic routine at home to provide myself with a welcome bit of normalcy. Being inside constantly can be a bore, but by switching up my current routine, I discovered some comfort in my current reality.

Email Madison San Miguel at [email protected]

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