Day in the Life: COVID Edition

It’s kind of weird to think that we’ve been in quarantine for nearly a year now. The last day of in-person classes almost feels like yesterday – I’m surprised by how quickly time has flown by. However, when I do think about it, I’ve really changed since the start of the pandemic – perhaps the biggest change I’ve noticed is my daily routine. Here’s what a day in my life looks like during quarantine:

8:00AM: Wake up

At the start of quarantine, I would wake up whenever I had class, and log onto Zoom in my pajamas. I soon found this to be very counterproductive; waking up at 2 in the afternoon wasted most of my day, and I always felt groggy in class. Now, I force myself out of bed around 8 or 9 – this adds structure to my day and gives me time to fully wake up. By the time class rolls around at 10, I’m awake and ready to go!

Cleaning up my room really helps me be productive.

I’ve also added two things to my morning ritual: making my bed and getting dressed. Making my bed makes my room feel tidy and more of a workspace rather than a bedroom. Putting something that isn’t pajamas on also works wonders – it gets me in the mindset to start working, and stops me from feeling tempted to crawl back into bed.

10:00AM – 12:00PM: Class

I love my course schedule this semester. I don’t have classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, giving me ample time to work on homework and other deadlines. However, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I have two hours of class in the morning.

My first class is Electromagnetic Fields. Although this class isn’t required for Astronomy majors, it’s a requirement for Physics majors (which I’m pursuing a double major in). One nice thing about Electromagnetic Fields is that there is an in-person lecture. If I wanted to, I could head over to the Loomis Laboratory of Physics and sit in a socially-distant lecture. Unfortunately, I have a class right after Electromagnetic Fields, and time doesn’t allow me to walk all the way across campus for in-person instruction.

Online lectures aren’t the same as in-person classes, but they’re still pretty good!

Electromagnetic Fields is probably the hardest class I’ve taken so far. The math is challenging, the theory is difficult, and the technical problems that naturally come with online teaching don’t help. However, I am very grateful for the effort that my professor has put into the class; the course webpage is neatly laid out, and he makes an effort to engage with students over Zoom. The global pandemic isn’t easy for anyone, but I find my professors going the extra mile to make it as easy as possible.

Homework for Electromagnetic Fields can take me up to 10 hours to finish!

My second class is an Astronomy course: Planetary Systems. We’re currently learning about how objects move in our solar system. I’ve learned a lot of new things about our celestial neighbors and their moons! Unlike Electromagnetic Fields, Planetary Systems is completely online. I don’t mind this too much – the lectures are still very engaging and easy to pay attention to.

12:00PM – 1:00PM: Lunch Break

It’s important that you take care of yourself during quarantine! This means eating healthy, taking breaks, and exercising. After a morning’s worth of work, I take about an hour to sit back and relax, eat, and get ready for the afternoon. If I don’t, I find myself burnt out and unproductive for the rest of the day.

1:00PM – 5:00PM: Homework

For the first half of this semester, I’m only taking two classes. However, I already feel the work piling on. Both of these classes have weekly homework problems, which take a long time for me to figure out and complete.

I like to spend most of my afternoons working on assignments my professors have given me. One thing I like to do now is type up my homework solutions, and this takes a lot of time. I type up my solutions because I’m not the biggest fan of online lectures; although I appreciate the effort my professors put into class, I just can’t absorb as much material. Typing things up help consolidate concepts in my head, and makes it easy for me to read back on my work when I’m studying.

Typing homework sets up is an arduous process, but definitely worth it.

5:00PM – 6:00PM: Dinner and Exercise

I try to find ways to stay in shape during quarantine. I try to take an hour out of every single day to go exercise and do something that isn’t watching TV or finishing homework. Thankfully, my building has a gym in the basement which I can use. For those of you who don’t have this luxury, I know that the ARC is still open!

6:00PM – 11:00PM: Research

Since the start of this semester, I’ve had the fortune to be able to work with a research group at Illinois. My research looks into black holes in dwarf galaxies – something that I haven’t covered in class before, but something that I find really cool! In the evenings, if I don’t have any homework left to do, I work on my research project. Given that astronomy is becoming an increasingly modern field, all of my work can be done virtually.

I can do all my research from my computer at home, which is really nice!

Because my research is all data analysis, I’ve had to improve my coding skills. I came into college with no programming experience whatsoever. Thankfully, there are a lot of online resources to help me – I’ve found CodeAcademy to be invaluable. Programming is also a skill that I’ve tried to work on during the pandemic – now’s a perfect time to start learning something!

11:00PM – 12:00AM: Getting ready for bed

I try not to work too late – after a certain hour, I find myself tired and prone to making mistakes. I also need a good 8 hours of sleep in order to function properly! Treating your body right is the best advice I can give, global pandemic or not. This includes not sleeping at absurdly late hours, and getting a good night’s rest.

Before I end this post, I want to stress that this is not what every single day looks like. I’ve seen tons of ‘COVID-19 Day in the Life’ posts and videos on the Internet, and it often feels like everyone is way more productive than I am. What I’ve described above is a perfect day for me – I am only able to do this when I get out the right side of bed. This pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone, myself included. If you need to take a rest day, do it. If you want to play video games or watch TV for a couple hours, do it. Being academically successful is awesome, but remember that YOU always come first.


Class of 2022
I grew up in Hong Kong, China, and I’ve come across the world to Illinois to major in Astronomy in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. I’ve always thought outer space is super cool, and I love that I’m learning everything that I can about it at Illinois.

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