I was never a study group kind of girl, but I found that in a time of quarantine, even as a diehard introvert, there were moments I craved a sense of camaraderie. I missed the feeling of having people to commiserate with after a long day of studying. I missed looking up from my small table in the café (yes, my table, because it was closest to the outlet) and seeing my friend’s faces scrunched up in concentration, or with their heads in their hands, rubbing their temples to try and force just a little more information into their brains that day.
So how to find company in a time where cafés are take-out only, libraries are closed and co-working spaces are hunkered down against the onslaught of this pandemic? Of course, I took to the internet. Below, I’ll tell you about my favorite ways to have yourselves your very own 24/7 virtual study cafés and my favorite ways to do it!
#1 Zoom, because using it for fun is better than using it for meetings!
Zoom is a new player in the video conference game and has a variety of tiers to help get you started! If you head to the Zoom website to make an account, you’ll be granted their Basic Subscription which allows for a limited number of participants and a maximum of forty-minute meetings. However, these days many schools provide a similar subscription to their students which makes Zoom a perfect way to keep in touch and study with friends. With these options, you have the ability to set up a recurring date, or simply use a ready-made link! Better with premium if it’s available, but totally usable even for short study sessions!
#2 Discord, not just for gamers anymore!
Known in the gaming community as a way to keep in touch, share, and communicate with other gamers who love the same games, Discord now has servers for everything. When one person creates a server, they are able to create “channels” for various topics. In the server that I have with friends and fellow students, we have a few text channels (which means chatting via typing) that function in a variety of ways. We have the general channel that serves as a place for us to chat when we’re on study breaks, a channel dedicated to sharing files and resources, and even a channel that’s just for funny memes! Then, voice channels are where you can log-on with your mics and cameras and study in solidarity! One cool feature I love about Discord is the ability to “deafen,” which is a setting that not only allows you to mute yourself, but also control the volume of others with you in the call! It’s great for when you just need silent company!
Alternatively, rather than having to navigate creating your own server, another option is searching for and joining existing servers and finding study buddies in the vast world of the interwebs. These servers have their own rules and regulations as well as requirements with regard to whether or not your cameras have to be on or off. Some even have channels where there are people streaming indefinitely! The best part about international servers is that no matter what time of day you log on, there’s always someone ready to study online with you! Time zones may be annoying, but they’re also pretty magical.
#3 Google Meet, you can never go wrong with the OG!
Another great option for video conferencing is the original and still wonderful Google Meet! The benefits of this option are that it doesn’t require you to create yet another account (and remember yet another password), and it doesn’t require you to download a third-party app. You’re able to just use an existing Gmail account as your login and you can use GMeet from the internet browser of your choosing!
Just like Zoom, you can create meeting links for whenever you want to use them or just create a recurring link that’s always in existence for you and your friends to log on to on demand! I like this one because it has great options for phone and tablet apps as well. sometimes, my friends and I even use it for group calls and happy hours when we need a little bit of a reprieve!
#4 Telegram – for communication and resource sharing
Less of a video conferencing service and more of a messaging service, Telegram is a service that’s great for communication and sharing resources. It’s popular among medical students because you can create group chats for file drops and with its almost limitless upload capabilities, you can share anything from Word documents and PDFs to audio and videos! It has a great search function that lets you look for any message or file no matter how far it’s been buried and allows you to create group messages, broadcasting channels and even secret chats for all the things you need to keep track of!
Another great feature is the seamless communication that happens between devices – everything from my laptop to tablet to phone merges perfectly and I never have to worry about messages not transferring over or files that get lost, distorted or deleted accidentally! Overall, I use and prefer Telegram to any other messaging service for communication (especially the scheduled messages feature, which allows me to send my friends encouragement and warm words whenever they need them most, even when I’m asleep)!
#5 Study with strangers – no, really!
Looking at places like reddit, Facebook, Discord and other social media sites, there are often people all over the world looking for people to study with. The cool part about international study buddies (even if you’re strangers) is that there is always someone online, thanks to the time difference!
While time (and distance, in my case) separate me from my very best of med school friends, I’m so grateful to modern technology for allowing us so many ways to not only keep in touch, but keep each other grounded… and accountable! And I have to say, as a sentimental person, it does me a lot of good to look up from my books (feeling hopeless or frustrated) and see the faces of the people who have been struggling alongside me these last five years. Just like in med school – I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Let this be your sign to log-on, mute your mic and get working, virtually! Which virtual study style would you try?