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How to develop your skills at home during coronavirus

Spending extended periods of time at home may provide you with the unique opportunity to develop new skills and keep your mind engaged. We've got the perfect guide for how to do just that.

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People all around the world are being encouraged to stay at home to avoid the spread of coronavirus. At this time, it’s important to stay healthy and look after yourself. Part of staying well means exercising not just your body, but also your mind. As an international student, you have probably been advised to study from home. While this might be frustrating and an uncertain time, it is also a great time to work on your skillset. So, to help you make the most of this somewhat strange situation, we’ve outlined some of the key skills that you can develop to set yourself up for the future.

 

Study skills and tips

Do you have exams coming up? A dissertation to write? Either way, you might be finding it difficult to focus or motivate yourself. Perhaps you’ve always struggled with revision or you’re yet to perfect your essay writing. We’re here to give you some tips to improve your study skills right from the comfort of your own home.

 

Proofreading and essay writing

Having more downtime could be the perfect opportunity to refine your essay writing skills so that you can pass your degree with flying colours. Particularly if you’re an undergraduate student, as many course modules will be marked on the quality of your essay writing.

 

One essential tip is to proofread, look critically at your work for both spelling and grammatical mistakes. Writing is a skill that can be learned, even if you don’t consider yourself to be the best at spelling. Make the most of your spellchecker on your computer too. These mistakes cost marks and they’re easily rectified.

 

To practice this skill, you just need to give yourself plenty of time for editing and check anything that you think doesn’t look quite right. There are also many online guides and free courses you can use to improve your writing skills, perhaps some are even offered through your university.

 

Even if you’re studying a subject that doesn’t require much writing, almost all jobs will expect some level of writing ability. So, fine tuning this will place you ahead of other candidates when applying for jobs and will help you to communicate more effectively in the workplace.  

 

Improving your revision techniques

Flash cards

If you’ve got exams to revise for, a great way to memorise facts and topics is by using flash cards. You can find online platforms to do this, which is also great for the environment. Websites such as Quizlet or Brainscape are really useful tools where you can even find other people’s revision notes on the same topic. Flashcards are also really useful for organising your work and breaking down everything you need to cover. This is a beneficial skill, not only for university, but also in the working world, where you will need to organise your workload.

 

Create a schedule

Writing out a schedule is another useful study skill to help you compartmentalise what you need to learn and how long this is likely to take. Take a large piece of paper and write out the days of the week, you might even plan for a whole month. Make sure you include the dates of your exams or essay deadlines. Having a timeframe like this will be helpful in making the work look realistic and achievable. If you ponder everything you need to do, you might find that you’re less productive and more stressed. Make sure you also include breaks and time for leisure activities too. This will help you to absorb everything you’ve learnt and will give your mind a rest.

Record yourself  

You might feel a little silly when recording yourself, but this is a really effective study skill that helps aid memory. You can use the recorder on your phone and ask questions that are likely to be asked in the exam. Answer the question after a short pause so that you can refer back to these recordings when you want to test yourself. This is also a practical study skill for anyone in isolation or quarantine where you may not be surrounded by people to test you. This will help your brain with retrieving knowledge, which let’s face it, is one of the most important study skills for an exam.

 

Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a fun way to clearly organise key topics and themes for an essay question or exam. By writing down your ideas, you may be able to see clear links which can help you when forming an argument. This might also be useful in an exam, to help structure your answers and get all your ideas into organised sections.

 

 

Overall, there are many methods you can practice to improve your memory, write an excellent essay and revise for exams but hopefully these examples will get you off to a good start. Next up we’ll be taking a look at practicing your communication skills.

 

Communication skills

Public speaking

It isn’t hard to find someone who doesn’t like public speaking. It’s a skill that many of us shy away from as you can feel exposed and worry about messing up in front of an audience. While this is a totally human reaction, public speaking is also an excellent skill that comes in handy both at university and in the workplace.

 

So, while you’re at home, you could watch some YouTube videos for tips on public speaking and then apply them whilst in the comfort of your own home. Why not try presenting to your family or friends over Skype? This is all completely free and could boost your CV when it comes to applying for jobs. Employers regard this skill highly as it shows that you can accept a challenge and can successfully communicate an idea to a group of people.

 

You could also try filming yourself speaking about a particular topic that interests you. This way, you can watch yourself and identify areas for improvement. Perhaps you look down while you speak or speak too fast. Noticing how you act when filmed will give you an indication of how an audience would respond to your presenting skills and can help you improve.

 

Webinars and seminars

Another great way to improve your skillset is to get involved in discussions in seminars or webinars. Try not to sit quietly for the whole time. By contributing something you will be flexing your grey matter to think on the spot and support your arguments in a concise way. This will give you the confidence to share your thoughts and opinions. Some universities provide free webinars where you can find out about student life and what it’s like to study there. You can ask questions and find out what you need to know.

 

Interview preparation

No matter what stage you’re at in your education, practicing your interview skills will never be a waste of time. This is particularly important if you are in your final year of undergraduate study, as you’ll be starting to think about graduate schemes and jobs.

 

So how can you prepare for an interview at home? There are many ways to do so, but a few key techniques stand out. Firstly, you should make sure that you have a firm understanding of your qualifications and experience, so that if you’re asked in an interview, you’ll be able to explain why you should be employed.

 

Secondly, try asking yourself common interview questions such as the below:

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What makes you a suitable candidate for this role?
  • When have you shown leadership?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • How would other people describe you?

 

Of course, you may be asked different questions depending on the role, but having an answer to each of these will get you thinking about the job and your experience. Although it can be daunting at first, interviews tend to follow a similar structure, so practice as much as you can as this will be noticeable to your potential employers.

 

Virtual interviews

As many of us are being advised to stay home as much as possible, you’re probably already finding that much of your work is already being moved online. This may mean that you’re having to communicate in a different way to what you’re used to. This can be hard to adjust to at first but still allows for connecting with others. You might even be asked to do a virtual interview over a video conferencing platform such as Skype or Zoom.

 

 

While this might seem strange at first, there are many advantages to having a virtual interview. Firstly, you don’t have to find your way to where the interview is being held, which is always half the stress. You can be in the comfort of your own home with notes beside you. This should make the process a little less stressful.

 

However, while you may feel more at ease while being in your own space, this doesn’t mean you can turn up to the interview in your pyjamas! Treat this setting as you would a typical face-to-face interview. You still want to make a good impression and expectations will be the same.

 

What to remember for a virtual interview:

  • Sit at a desk with a straight posture
  • Test your camera and microphone beforehand
  • Plan your outfit the night before (stick to plain, formal clothes)
  • Make sure whatever is in the background is appropriate
  • Check the lighting in the room isn’t too dark or light
  • Take note of the code and password to access the video conference
  • You may choose to keep notes nearby (avoid making this obvious)

 

During these unsettling times, you need to look after yourself, so that might mean taking more down-time or it could mean staying productive. Remember it is whatever works best for you. Hopefully these tips will provide you with some inspiration and ideas on how to refine your skills from home.

 

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