Check-in with Anthropology Graduate Student Brittany Schaefer

Posted on Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

Brittany Schaefer is a masters student in the Public Issues anthropology program.


How has your life changed since isolation began?

Like many of us, I feel like my life has been turned upside down. Before, I was running around on campus all day - going to class, attending meetings, volunteering with the Sustainability Office. Now, I rarely leave home, but thankfully my housing situation is safe and secure.

Being stuck at home has been a huge shift, and some days are better than others. I miss a lot of things: being involved on campus, hanging out in coffee shops, and rock climbing with friends. On the other hand, I’ve really appreciated slowing down because it’s given me a lot of time to reflect on how far I’ve come and how grateful I am for the privileges that I have. It’s also given me the time to reconnect with friends and family… even my grandma has Skype now! 

How has your schooling been affected?

I was really excited about completing my fieldwork this summer in Thailand for my Master’s thesis. My research was focused on environmental perspectives, tourist relations, and waste management on small islands. Everything was all planned out; I was only waiting for approval from UoG’s Research Ethics Board. However, given everything that’s going on right now, I made the difficult decision to cancel this research project.

At first, it felt like I had wasted an entire year of preparation, but I’ve managed to look at the bright side! I’m planning a new project now, which is closer to home AND close to my heart. I can’t wait to see where this new project goes and I maybe I will save the other one for my PhD!

How are you keeping busy?

So, funny enough, I’ve been trying to convince myself to be NOT-busy right now. I feel like there’s a lot of pressure on us to be productive, but that extra pressure can be quite harmful during this stressful time. This is especially true if you feel like you’re never achieving enough! I found that making a schedule and sticking to it helped me make the most of my scheduled work hours so that I could truly relax afterwards (instead of spending all day procrastinating one simple task and then getting frustrated with myself!).

I usually tackle activities requiring a lot of brain-power in the morning while I’m still fresh and the most productive. This keeps my evenings free for relaxation and (digital) socializing. Balancing work life and home life is even more important when you’re home all the time!

I changed my expectations about what “a successful day” looked like for me and stopped prioritizing productivity over all else. This ultimately improved my mood and allowed me more energy to practice the things that keep me positive -- like cooking and working on my handstands! 

Any tips for other graduate students?

Hang in there! This is uncharted territory for all of us (except for maybe the grad students who are currently writing…) But it’s not going to last forever! Take the time to prioritize what is important, but not urgent, such as moving your body and reaching out to friends and family. We’ve got this!

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