It happens to us all. We’re healthy and fine, with only a slightly sore throat and a blocked nose. Next thing you know, you’re exhausted, your body aches and you can’t move without coughing. A occasional cold or flu is natural when you’re surrounded by a couple of thousand strangers every day, and it can be quite difficult to keep up your good work ethic or even make it to class when you’re drowsy from cough syrup. So, here’s my guide to surviving a sick week at university. [Disclaimer: this guide is meant for surviving a short, generally harmless illness like a cold or flu. For serious or chronic medical problems, speak to professionals].
1) Get to a doctor ASAP. Most of the time, your cold or flu won’t be too serious and you’ll get better on your own pretty soon, but you do need a doctor’s note or medical certificate. As soon as you have your medical certificate, get it scanned and onto your computer, because you’re going to need it for the next step.
2) Email your lecturers and tutors. If you’re missing anything compulsory, like a tutorial or a practical, have a test while you’re sick, or have anything due, the people in charge need to see a medical certificate. Ask for extensions on assignments and to be excused from your tutorials and practicals. If you can, move whatever deadlines you have to the following Monday or Friday. You can catch up when you’re healthy again.
3) Decide what you absolutely can’t miss and only attend those sessions. For me, this is physics lectures. It’s easy for me to catch up Astrophysics, or Maths, but not physics. It’s the one course that I cannot afford to fall behind on at all. This will at least keep you from falling too far behind, but also allow you to get enough rest and recovery time.
4) Stay in bed and get lots of sleep. Your body needs sleep to heal and you will feel tired enough to sleep for a few hours during the day and another 12 at night.
5) Do what you can from your laptop. Many of my lectures are recorded and uploaded to my university’s online learning website, so I can download ones that I missed and watch them while in bed. While I can’t exactly sit and puzzle through a physics weekly problem set, I can take the data from my astrophysics practical and start processing it on my laptop. Doing this reduces your workload without it becoming too strenuous.
6) Don’t think too much about the work you’re missing while you’re recovering. Do what you can, but relax. Stressing yourself out will double the amount of time it will take you to recover. Make getting better your focus.
As soon as you’re healthier:
A) Make a list of all your upcoming assignments and tests. This will give you a good idea of how much work you have to do and how long you have to do it. Start with whatever is overdue and running on extension.
B) Get notes from your friends, but don’t just blindly photocopy them and think that’s okay. Rewrite your friends’ notes in your own words and make sure you’re processing the work you missed. If there’s something unclear in your friends’ notes, cross-check it with the lecture slides or your textbook.
C) Keep up with the class. Don’t fall behind, skip lectures or assignments because you’re still catching up. You want to be in class if they’re starting a new section. Work hard and fast to fill in the gaps you missed.