How to survive a pandemic: 10 top tips for PhD students

By Giulia Baracchini / 2021-10-18

587 days have passed since the WHO declared COVID a global pandemic. 587 days of “Remind me again, what day is it today?”, “You’re muted, we can’t hear you!”. 587 days of mental and physical fatigue. And perhaps most devastatingly, 587 days without Nonna’s homemade lasagna. 

Graduate school can be an alienating experience. Long hours, numerous deadlines, never-ending to-do lists, imposter syndrome, all of which can lead to excessive stress and burnout. Yet in my experience, nothing feels more alienating and stressful than not knowing when you’ll be able to taste some fine Italian cuisine again. Or, you know, see your loved ones… That too. 

I started my PhD in the fall of 2019 and at the time, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. I kind of did, until COVID hit. So naive of me to not include a potential global health crisis in the equation. Had I known I’d have to live through a pandemic, I would have done things differently. I would have asked Nonna to bake me 500 pieces of lasagna to keep in my freezer, for example. Or I would have bought some fancy pajama sets. Had I known that my neighbours would be having a full on fashion show each garbage day, at least I could have been prepared. 

Anyway, since figuring out time-travel is unfortunately out of the scope of my thesis, I would instead like to offer some advice to my fellow PhD students. Hopefully it will help us all keep surviving (and thriving!), and perhaps inspire future generations of young scientists experiencing “unprecedented” situations. So here are my ten top tips for surviving a pandemic: 

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