Top Row (L-R): Cheri Danton, Ayesha Jehangir, Aleisha Fernandes. Bottom Row (L-R): Karen Choi, Joy Abasta, Hanna Fernandez

Making the most of learning and working from home

May 27, 2020

By: Geron Malbas

As SFU has transitioned to online learning and working over the last few months, both students and staff have had to adjust to this change. During this time, we have all been challenged to think of creative ways to remain productive and stay healthy, both mentally and physically. We spoke to various students and staff in the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) community to hear about their experiences and how they are making the most out of learning and working at home.

Hanna Fernandez, a second year FHS student in the Bachelor of Arts (BA) program, has utilized the extra time at home to be productive in accomplishing new goals.

“When I have to commute to and from school, I find I’m too busy to make a healthy meal or have enough spare time to work on other projects,” she says. “I’ve been trying to learn new piano pieces, do more home workouts, and eat more healthily.”

Aleisha Fernandes, a fifth year FHS student in the Bachelor of Sciences (BSc) program, has found her health sciences background essential in being critical and attentive of the information circulating around COVID-19. While staying home to study, she also works with SFU Health and Counselling’s Health Promotion Team to implement health wellness initiatives online including Instagram posts about how Health Peers practice self-compassion at home, and tips on things to do at home.

“I have learned how amazing technology can be,” says Fernandes. “I recently attended a virtual mental health summit, and I felt really empowered. I gained so much from interacting with people online via virtual discussions than I normally would in-person.”

Karen Choi, a second year FHS student in the BSc program, has discovered the importance of time-management and keeping a sense of routine at home.

“I learned to plan my day wisely. I will wake up in the morning and try to finish the things on my to-do list as soon as possible,” she says. “I have also gotten better at creating a work-life balance. I will take a stroll with my parents on weekdays to get adequate exercise, and sing out loud when I’m feeling stressed.”

For Co-op students, Kaylla Paran and Ayesha Jehangir who are working at Fraser Health, they have found the transition to working from home has presented many challenges, but also rewarding solutions. Paran and Jehangir, working as a Business Analyst and Junior Business Analyst respectively, have both found their Health Sciences background essential in understanding the COVID-19 crisis.

“Being at home rather than at the office makes it hard to stay motivated. However, I try to give myself short breaks and some time to get up and move,” Paran says. “Understanding the severity of the COVID-19 crisis has helped me realize that I am contributing some of my work and knowledge to this devastating situation.”

“I have made up for the decrease in social interaction by messaging my colleagues on Skype at the beginning and end of the day,” says Jehangir. “Using the communication skills I gained as a Health Sciences student, I am part of an initiative that increases physician technological support during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

With the knowledge gained from his classes, MPH student James Young understands how the role of prevention in a pandemic can be much more effective than relying on acute health care systems to treat sick patients. The additional time at home has allowed him to think more resourcefully, while also enjoying a new routine.

“My household recently adopted a dog, which has been a great opportunity to stay physically healthy as we have been spending so much time at home nowadays,” he explains. “While I miss in-person contact, I was surprised by the relatively seamless transition to utilizing video technology to facilitate learning and meetings.

Cheri Danton, the FHS Confidential Secretary, has discovered that she can use her free time to be more social and physically active by walking around her neighbourhood.

“When my workday ends I go for an hour walk before dinner—at the time when I would normally be sitting on the bus,” she says. “Since I spend less time shopping and running errands, I exercise more on the weekends, too! One of the nicest outcomes—from those daily walks— is that my neighbours will wave or chat with me as I pass by.”

Joy Abasta, an MPH student, has been focusing on exercising good mental health practices while she studies remotely. In addition to keeping her mental health in check, she discovered that checking in with loved ones has helped in overcoming her feelings of isolation.

“I practice yoga for 30 minutes each morning, and use the Calm app whenever necessary to keep my anxiety under control,” she says. “I have also learned that this pandemic negatively impacts the under-served and the most vulnerable communities globally. Our professors are constantly updating us on the possible health, economic, and social impacts of COVID-19 on a global scale.”

As the Administrative & Communications Coordinator for the FHS Graduate Caucus, she created a Mental Health Resources document to inform people (inclusive to children and youth) of available mental health services during this challenging time.

“My goal in creating the list was so readers would be comfortable in asking for help, especially when our routines were broken due to unpredictable changes,” she explains. “People have varied interests when it comes to keeping healthy, either physically or mentally. Some prefer exercising, meditating, reading, drawing, etc. I hope people extract resources that appeal to them the most. My Public Health education has taught me that transparency, open communication and timely updates are essential in community participation, especially in unprecedented times like this.”