University Student Self-Isolation Survival Guide

Photo by Annie Chusid

Times are hard. We’re in a confusing and uncertain moment, and it may feel like this for a while. Whether social distancing is your worst nightmare or ideal lifestyle, it’s our new reality, and we have to navigate it together. Though you may feel a loss of control, remember that you can dictate your environment and how you handle any situation.  Here are some recs and tips to get you through this experience.


Educated by Tara Westover 

Educated is a coming of age memoir that chronicles a young Tara Westover’s journey from the lonely hills of Idaho to the prestigious halls of Cambridge. Westover was born sometime in 1986 — no birth certificate was printed — on a mountain in Idaho, the seventh child of Mormon survivalists. Her parents followed an extremist belief system well outside the mandates of Mormonism, which forbade sending their children to school. The book recalls Westover’s journey of survival and her quest for knowledge. Westover’s ability to learn is a reminder of our potential to teach ourselves, and not be limited or discouraged by our surroundings. 

Illness as a Metaphor by Susan Sontag 

In Illness as Metaphor, Susan Sontag argues that the myths and metaphors surrounding disease, specifically AIDS and cancer, can kill by instilling embarrassment and guilt in the sick. Sontag illuminates how stigmatization surrounding illnesses can add to the suffering of patients and can even fuel reluctance to seek proper care. As COVID-19 spreads, patients and communities sadly find themselves having to cope with stigmatization  and discrimination. Recently, an Asian man was physically assaulted in London by a stranger who blamed him for the spread of COVID-19. Illness as a Metaphor is a potent reminder that words can be fatal. We cannot allow COVID-19 to be a vehicle for harmful racism and xenophobia.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley 

Humorous, nostalgic, and uplifting, The Authenticity Project follows an aging artist who decides to write his brutally honest life story in a notebook. When he leaves the notebook in his local café for a stranger to find, it encourages others to share their own stories, setting off a cascade of journal entries throughout the neighborhood, guiding six strangers to unexpected love and companionship. Like COVID-19, The Authenticity Project demands the kind of solidarity our individualist culture denies, reminding us of the importance of community and empathy. 



Alex Trebek is the quarantine companion we all need. Netflix carries a handful of classic Jeopardy episodes with fan favourite champions, giving you loads of entertainment and random knowledge. Give yourself some intellectual stimulation and stream some Jeopardy; your brain will thank you later. 


Before comedy powerhouse Phoebe Waller-Bridge started winning every award for her innovative and hysterical series Fleabag, she wrote and starred in another series entitled Crashing. The sitcom follows a group of friends living together in a disused hospital. If you are a fan of dirty jokes and plot twists, spend some time watching Crashing


There’s a reason why Contagion is currently trending on Amazon and Netflix. In the wake of this pandemic, Contagion has been a way to cope with anxiety. Released in 2011, the film tells the story of a fictional illness that kills millions of people worldwide. In unsettling times, looking to thrillers for examples of worst-case scenarios and happy endings can be comforting. 


Seek Treatment 

We all need to seek some mental treatment in this plane of life. Seek Treatment has been my escape from all the mundane CNN updates. The hosts, New York-based comedians Cat Cohen and Pat Regan, are always hilarious whether they are diving into the peculiarity of open relationships or daddy issues. The theme song alone will lift your spirits. Content warning: if you’re home with your family, you may want to whip out the headphones.

The Daily

The Daily is a daily news podcast by The New York Times, hosted by Times journalist Michael Barbaro. The conversational podcast usually consists of a summary of current events and interviews. Well-informed, funny, and sensitive, you can trust Barbaro to seek the truth and help you understand what is going on in the world. Understanding facts — not gossip or rumours — about COVID-19 can make the outbreak less stressful. 

Planet Money

Produced by NPR, Planet Money explains the economy entertainingly and creatively. There is a lot of noise right now about market crashes driven by the pandemic, and it’s difficult to say where the crisis could be headed. It’s important to stay calm and listen to facts from trustworthy journalists and economists, not your second cousin’s Facebook rant.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Create a schedule 

Your physical health is essential, but let’s not neglect our mental health. A 2004 study found that Toronto residents in quarantine during SARS displayed symptoms of depression and even PTSD. Get out of bed, put on some deodorant, and get out of your pajamas. Don’t let your hygiene go just because you may not be seeing your library crush. To normalize the situation, create a schedule for activities. For example, your plan can include completing course readings, FaceTiming your grandparents, or baking a loaf of banana bread. Making a schedule will boost your motivation and productivity. 

Work Out

Just because you’re stuck inside does not give you a reason to neglect your body and mental health. Working out may be one of the best ways to pass time while you’re self-quarantined, and it’s also a great stress reliever. Go for a walk in a park, use your textbooks as weights or follow a no-equipment-needed workout video. 

Take a Master Class 

A MasterClass is like a workout for your mind that will expand your horizons and introduce you to new perspectives. Learn how to write thrillers from James Patterson, cook from Wolfgang Puck or embody leadership and creativity from Anna Wintour. It’s inspiring to watch these successful individuals condense a lifetime of knowledge and experience into one MasterClass. Now is the time to learn something new.

Avoiding physical proximity doesn’t mean your life is doomed. Stay inside, stay motivated and stay safe. 

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