Newhouse Insider: Prepping for Spring Semester

Mackenzie Snell

Spring semester snuck up on me. The day before I left to return to Syracuse, I realized just how busy I was about to be. On top of classes, I had an internship, a part-time job, a desire to get some skiing in, and should probably be looking at post-grad jobs. It was an overwhelming realization.

As an international student, I had to undergo a mandatory quarantine upon my return to New York. With four days stuck inside my apartment, I figured what better way to spend it than prepping my room, workstation, and life for the spring semester, especially my virtual internship? Most of my classes were in person last semester, so although my desk was set up as a decent evening workspace, it wasn’t the best place to spend eight-hour workdays…yet.

The first thing I did upon returning — and I really do mean the first thing, I left my bags unpacked in the hallway so as not to create an additional mess — was take almost everything out of my room, leaving only the furniture that wouldn’t fit through the door. Next was deep cleaning and making minor repairs. Then, once my blank canvas was ready, I drafted my room and possible configurations on grid paper. I kept coming back to the idea of using my bookshelves to create some sort of cubicle or physical division between my bed and my desk, both for my mental health and so my bed was no longer the background of my Zoom calls. Settling on a plan, I moved everything back into place and finally unpacked my things.

Next was digital preparedness; I set up my new work email, did all my necessary training, and began to mess around with some of the software I was going to need. The Adobe Suite was already familiar to me, but Microsoft Teams was new, and I wanted to make sure I understood its full capabilities. The app Notion kept popping up on my TikTok feed over the break, and it seemed like a decent way to get organized for this as well. Most of day two in quarantine was spent trying to figure out the perfect organization and aesthetic to keep my internship straight and my semester.

A unique element of working or going to class in 2021 is the idea of a video call background. As an avid DIY’er, I felt that I could make something more personal and less expensive than buying a tapestry or other artwork. I cut two pieces of fabric, one to serve as a Zoom background and the other to hide the unpainted side of my desk. The black fabric was professional and straightforward but not very me. And so, my next day in quarantine was spent on the floor of my living room with fabric paints. It might have taken me a whole season of a show on Netflix, but the result was a smattering of constellations that felt just personalized enough without being gaudy.

Although I couldn’t leave the house to get groceries during quarantine, I figured it would still be an excellent time to meal prep and plan out recipes. Pulling on my favorites from last semester and some new finds on Pinterest, I created a two-month meal plan and corresponding shopping lists. I am particularly looking forward to everything but the bagel stuffed chicken and seafood chowder next week!

Finally, I figured it would be essential to have working stationery at my desk. This desire led to the super exciting activity of testing pens, pencils, and markers and checking notebooks for which are empty or full. Just when I thought I was running out of things to do, it was time for my end-of-quarantine COVID-19 test!

This semester will be unpredictable, as is the nature of life in a pandemic, but I know I always feel mildly better when the pieces that can be under my control are organized and ready to go.