Seven Questions with... Aimee Connolly

Aimee is a full-time postgraduate student undertaking a MSc in Public Policy. Here, she shares with us her first week’s experience of remote learning, how she avoids distractions at home and her top tips for preparing for online classes.

Why are you interested in your subject and what do you plan to do in the future?

Everything in society is impacted by public policy decisions - education, the health system, the environment, housing, the economy etc. 

As I majored in Business and Political Science at undergraduate level, I have always been interested in analysing the complexities of who makes important policy decisions, what evidence these are based on and the impact of these changes. 

I have a strong interest in higher education policy and so I hope to work in a university, think tank or government organisation focusing on the future needs of students and higher education institutions in a changing world and how policy needs to reflect this. 

How have you found the move to online learning at UCL?

The staff in my department, UCL Public Policy , have been incredibly supportive, with consistent regular updates. 

It has definitely been a bit of a learning curve, as studying at home is something that I am not used to, however it has been great to have the support of staff and my peers. 

There were some technical difficulties in the beginning, however these have been ironed out and I found my recent classes very engaging.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve done, seen or got involved with while at UCL?

I have been very lucky to have gotten involved with Students’ Union UCL during my time here. 

I was very active in the Union in my alma mater having been a Sabbatical Officer there and so it was something I was keen to learn more about when I arrived at UCL. 

I work for the Union as a Research and Evaluation Assistant, which I thoroughly enjoy because I get to put the skills I am gaining from my degree programme into action - and I also get to work with some very lovely staff and students! 

How do you stay productive when studying from home?

I think the key to remaining productive is keeping to your normal routine as much as possible! 

  • I still get up before 8am every morning and write a to-do list and a rough plan for my day. 
  • I believe it’s important to have separate areas for working and resting if you can. 
  • Eat healthily and set aside meal times to add structure to your day. 
  • Also, be sure to put aside some time for leisurely activities - I go for a walk on my own each evening to get some fresh air, exercise and a bit of calm time to myself. 

Important: You can’t be productive during the day if you’re burned out. There are plenty of enjoyable activities to do around the house - you just have to get creative! 

Check out UCL Cares ’ online blog for tips on looking after your body, mind and those around you. Remember: taking small steps can have a big impact in helping you find balance between your studies and wellbeing.

  • Prepare for your classes as you normally would have when they were face-to-face. Do your readings, bring any questions you have about the topic and be ready to engage with the class so that you can get the most out of your time. 
  • Try to limit distractions when in class. Prepare everything you need beforehand (computer, paper, pens etc). Let your family/housemates know when you are attending classes or meetings so that they know not to interrupt you for a period of time. 
  • Keep utilising office hours online. You can still contact your lecturers and have discussions with them via several different platforms!
  • Try to record classes and upload these afterwards for students who are in different time zones or have new commitments at the scheduled time for your class. 
  • Make sure that the structure of your class is suited well to online teaching. Do a trial run before your first class to identify any difficulties that may arise.
  • Stay in regular contact with your classes as much as possible. Even if you don’t have much to update on, I can guarantee your students will be happy to hear from you! 
  • A top tip for everyone (both staff and students alike) is to support each other! Everyone is trying their best and adapting to a new way of working and learning. Be considerate of those around you.

    If you were Provost for the day what one thing would you do?

    I would build a new Students’ Union building to allow all of the Union’s activities to be in one central place where students can access societies and social spaces, and gather information and support about anything they need under one roof.