Finding balance as a medical student during a global struggle 

22 April 2020

Hi everyone! Levi here. My wife Jacqueline and I are first-year Griffith University medical students. We’re both from British Columbia and now living on the Gold Coast of Australia. Today, we want to share our experience with finding our new normal!

Griffith medical school
Still studying and working with the “new normal”

No matter your field of study, the switch from in-class lectures and workshops to everything being online is quite the shock. I think everyone can use a little help when it comes to being in charge of your own learning.

This pandemic has changed everyone’s lives. For us, it means that our first year of medical school is online. In a way, this is a great thing! A lot of the lectures are available now, allowing students to build their own schedule around whatever else is going on in their lives. Who would have thought we would be lucky enough to have this much flexibility in medical school?! However, for ourselves and I’m sure a lot of other students, we don’t have much else going on outside of our studies. We’ve come to realize that this lack of structure can be dangerous in a number of ways. For some of us, there is unbearable guilt and pressure to constantly have a book in our hands and for others this time is a true test of our discipline.

I know that, between Jacqueline and I, we would both have very unhealthy quarantine schedules if we were left to our own devices. Here’s what I would imagine our days looking like:

Jac Levi
9 – 10 a.m. Wake up, brush teeth, get dressed, at-home workout Wallow in bed for another hour
10 – 11 a.m. Shower and begin organizing notes for the day Get out of bed, move to couch still not dressed
11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Review notes from yesterday and begin going over posted lectures for today and probably also tomorrow Play Animal Crossing for a little bit too long, try and pay Tom Nook back for the new room. Move to the table Jacqueline is studying at and loudly eat breakfast while getting lost down YouTube rabbit holes
2 – 3 p.m. Eat a light lunch, maybe have a coffee while continuing with rest of lectures for the week. Eat lunch because you saw Jacqueline eating and got hungry again, have two coffees.
3 – 6 p.m. Cry a little bit because there is so many lectures being posted, but only so much time in the day. Wipe tears off notebook and continue studying. Have mild panic attack when you realize it’s 3pm and you haven’t looked at any material yet. Have 3 more cups of coffee. Finally begin looking over lectures.
6 – 7 p.m. Make dinner and eat while listening to lectures. Pout that there is so much work to do, work for 20 minutes and then eat to reward yourself for the hard work.
7 – 9 p.m. Review all the notes you’ve done today, shower, cry in shower while also reading notes through the glass door. Clean up after dinner, get frustrated because that was what wasted the most time today, try to study
9 – 11 p.m. Continue reviewing what you’ve done today, make a plan for tomorrow and begin falling asleep at the table. Attempt to watch a lecture at double speed while you take notes on another lecture in a caffeine-induced haze
11 p.m. – 12 a.m. Anxiously watch Community on Netflix and get ready for bed.

We’ve found the most success somewhere in between what we both would normally do on our own. Yes, you need to be disciplined, and try to leave your bed before 10 a.m. if possible, but there needs to be time for yourself throughout the day too.

COVID is affecting everyone. Of course this isn’t the ideal way to be studying, but it’s not the ideal situation for your classmates, or students back in Canada, or anywhere else in the world. Although it can be tempting to study from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed, or it can be tempting to watch Tiger King all in one day, the healthy option is somewhere in between. At the end of the day, we want to come out the other side of this lockdown still sane, and still able to continue with our studies.

A much healthier day for us has begun to look more like this:

Levi and Jacqueline
9 – 10 a.m. Wake up with alarm, work out together, J makes breakfast while L showers.
10 – 11 a.m. Eat together, L cleans up while J showers. Make coffee, get dressed and figure out a plan for the day.
11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Go over posted lectures for today together, and maybe tomorrow’s since it looks a little dense. Spread the lecture material out for the duration of the week so we don’t get overwhelmed.
1 – 2 p.m. Make lunch together, eat together while maybe watching an episode of Avatar, clean up together.
2 – 4 p.m. Go over Learning Objectives for small group sessions for tomorrow, study individually.
4 – 5 p.m. Go for a walk in the nearby park and look at all the cute dogs, maybe cry a little bit because we miss our dogs.
5 – 6:30 p.m. Go over whatever we have issues with that day, figure out a plan for tomorrow.
6:30 – 7:30 p.m. L makes dinner, J finishes up studying for the day, eat together.
7:30 – 11ish Clean up after dinner, play Mario Party, watch old episodes of Rick and Morty and relax because whatever work we didn’t get to today, will still be there tomorrow. Get to sleep at a decent time.


In this last month we’ve realized that the perfect quarantine day isn’t going to happen. This isn’t a perfect situation. This is weird for everyone. All we can do is try our best, go easy on ourselves, and keep moving forward.

We find making a schedule for ourselves at the beginning of the week helps give our week a bit of structure. However, just because you schedule something, doesn’t make you a bad student if you can’t finish it that day. Sometimes it’s easy to overestimate how quickly you’ll be able to get through an embryology lecture, and that’s okay.

Sometimes you just need to play Animal Crossing

Also trying to get up at the same time each day and actually getting dressed can really help you feel more motivated to get something done for the day. You might consider giving yourself time to walk away from your books or lectures, whether it’s doing an at home workout, going for a walk, video calling your friends at home, or playing Animal Crossing. Your mental health during this time is just as important as your study habits.

We’ve found our own little tricks that work too. I personally really like using the Pomodoro Technique while I playing a little Animal Crossing in my long break. Jacqueline, on the other hand, will go hard studying all morning, and then bake for most of the early afternoon… like, a lot of baking.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I definitely started feeling a bit of a stitch at the start of this race. As tired as the saying is, this is a marathon not a sprint. During this lockdown, the most important lesson we’ve learned is that balance is everything. We hope you can find this happy medium too!

Stay safe friends, and wash your hands.

Griffith Medical School students Jacqueline and Levi Atamanchuk

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