Study desk with laptop and computer monitor

Hacks to getting back into your studies

Are you nervous getting back into your studies? Are you like me and spent the last 5 or more years after your bachelor’s, working the odd job here and there? Well, for those of you older students embarking on the study path, listen up! I have some tips for you.

It’s natural to feel nervous when you’re about to start something new. You’ve probably had to sacrifice a stable income to revert back to being a poor student again, with the hope and anticipation that the next 1-2 years will fulfill its purpose. If you’ve felt this way, just remember, you’re not alone.

I’ve usually been able to take things in my stride, but as the start date at Karolinska Institutet loomed closer, I’ll admit, the belly began to flutter (from the butterflies, not excessive kanelbullas). I hadn’t studied in a while, so the thought of studying was a little daunting.

How does one even study?

Studying is different to working, at least for me. While working, I could get away with doing the same basic tasks every day and it was more or less familiar. Studying, on the other hand, is more stimulating and challenging in a different way. I actually quite enjoy studying. At least for me, there’s far less responsibility!

So, what do I need to study my master’s?

A quick checklist:

  • Course books? This is not entirely necessary at KI as reading material is provided on the learning platform. You don’t have to get ahead by reading the textbook because you are given a lot of time to go through material. But feel free if you’re curious!
  • A printer? If, like me, this was the first thing you thought of, we’re showing our age. Apparently this is unnecessary and, admittedly, it is devastating for the environment. But I guess the whole printer thing is for you to decide. I know students have managed perfectly fine without one. I am not one of them.
  • A laptop or computer? YES. It goes without saying.
  • A computer monitor? YES. I would highly recommend an extra computer monitor for all the health informaticians, especially for the computer science courses. It’s also great to have an extra screen for all the (what seems like) millions of scientific literature you’re going to have to read while writing up your assignments. I thought I could get away with just a laptop, and that was a complete disaster. In one lecture I had 8 tiny apps opened on the one screen and I couldn’t see a thing! Nor could I follow what the lecturer was saying.

Ok so, now that we’re done with the practical stuff, here are 3 tips I would recommend before getting back into your studies as an adult.

Learn about academic writing

I hadn’t written a proper piece of scientific work in SO long. Academic writing was, and still is, the biggest struggle for me. I’m so used to speaking in my head and typing away at whatever comes to mind. Obviously this doesn’t work at KI. Before beginning at KI or during the first couple of weeks, get familiar with academic writing. You’ll surely find plenty of information about academic writing online and once you get access to the university, KI library offers plenty of resources. Don’t be afraid to reach out ASAP.

Practice reading and summarising text

Another thing I’ve found difficult to adapt to, is reading masses of scientific literature and summarising it. Firstly, the reading part in itself is quite new for me. Sure, I read your odd book OF MY CHOICE every now and again. But scientific literature isn’t some magical adventure to get hooked on. It’s hard for me to concentrate and maintain focus. And secondly, after reading, you’ll have to demonstrate your understanding by applying your knowledge and writing it out in your own words. In my job as a pharmacist, I don’t think about plagiarism while reciting the side effects to patients. In my job as KI student, I repeat to myself, “don’t plagiarise, don’t plagiarise, whatever you do, don’t plagiarise…” And then there’s the devil in me, “But this coursebook has said it perfectly. How am I meant to convey the same message this succinctly without copying their sentence?” Anyway, the point is, it would be so much easier if reading scientific literature and summarising it came more naturally instead of the constant conversation in my head. PS. Just to clarify, plagiarism is not an option.

Familiarise yourself with a referencing programme

This tip isn’t too hard to follow and will be very useful in the future. Referencing used to be a nightmare for me. Change one reference number and you can say goodbye to your afternoon. Honestly, it used to take me ALL day to reference. But having discovered a referencing programme, I am a new person. Referencing has been a breeze. Sure, learning how to use the programme took longer than expected because it wasn’t so intuitive, but once I memorised what was important to input, everything was grand.

My last words on this topic

The thought of getting back into university is daunting, but personally, I feel very well supported here at KI. I didn’t practice these tips myself and I’ve been doing fine. So you can go ahead and just ignore this! BUT, if I had the chance to, I would, because it would have probably caused me less stress. I cannot emphasise how resourceful KI library and their staff are. I would highly recommend you reach out to them. And if, any time during the year, you’re really struggling with getting back into studies, contact your study counsellor, they are also so supportive!

Julio has written a great blog, 5 tips to prevent burnout while studying and working remotely, for those who are losing their study mojo.

Helen Nguyen - Health Informatics

Helen Nguyen - Health Informatics

Hi! I'm Helen from Australia here, currently living and loving life in Stockholm. I'm studying a Master's in Health Informatics at Karolinska Institutet. I love walking in nature, dancing and cycling around town. I love a good chat and enjoy a good hearty laugh. We can talk about nothing and discuss absolutely everything. I enjoy cooking food, falling asleep to movies and going for long walks in the forest.

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