Sabrina De La Vega
Sabrina de la Vega, MPP Class of 2021

As a continuation of our Day in the Life student series, Sabrina de la Vega, MPP Class of 2021, writes about what a typical day looks like for her in the virtual format.

 Going into Spring Quarter is an exciting time for us first-year MPP students at Harris—it marks the end of The Core and the beginning of studying in our particular area of focus: I was excited to begin my pursuit of the Energy and Environmental Policy Certificate and the Certificate in Municipal Finance. I would like to share some of the ways my quarter has looked different than what I expected and how I have been adjusting to the “new normal” of learning and interacting in a virtual format.

 A Day in the (Virtual) Life of a Harris Student:

 8 a.m. –Without a commute, I’m able to wake up a bit later and still have plenty of time to get ready, have a nice breakfast, and sit down at my desk in time for my 9:30 a.m. class.

 9:30 a.m. – Class time! I login to Zoom and turn on my camera so that I am ready to actively participate in class, which typically consists of a mixture of lecture and discussion. For primarily discussion-based classes, I try to watch the asynchronous pre-recorded lecture before class so I can be prepared with any questions I may have.

 11 a.m. – By this time, I take a break from staring at my computer to move around a bit. Sometimes I go for a run or do some yoga (I love Yoga with Adriene on YouTube), but some days it is simply moving to a different spot in my apartment and doing something not school related for a bit.

 Noon – I try to make a good lunch every day to split up my day. Most recently, I have been making tuna salad or prepping a quick frozen stir fry.

 12:30 p.m. – At the start of the afternoon I make a mental list of the rest of the work I need to do throughout the day. With online classes and my remote on-campus job and internship, this can sometimes feel overwhelming. I start by doing the most important things and rotating every hour or so what I work on. I stay in this workflow until about 6 p.m.

 6 p.m. – By this time, I’ve had a full day and I’m ready to unwind, so I will either start making dinner or do something to relax for a bit. My recent favorite relaxation activities are binge-watching a sitcom on Netflix, caring for my sourdough starter, working on puzzles, or playing Animal Crossing.

 7 p.m. – Most nights I have a group Zoom or “house party” call scheduled in the early evening. I love catching up with friends during the week because even though the days can be long, it’s refreshing to interact with people after spending the day at home. I definitely notice a difference in my days when I am able to talk to friends.

 10 p.m. – I usually go to bed pretty early these days, but I end up scrolling through TikTok for hours… it is such a nice stress reliever though, so I think of it as self-care!

 While these things don’t fall under the category of “daily schedule,” this has also been a great time to explore different networking and learning opportunities. I had a great time participating in a Minorities in Public Policy Studies (MiPPS)  “Wine Down” with MiPPS alumni, discussing the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on minority communities. I learned a lot of valuable techniques in an Excel training session hosted by Public Financial Management (PFM) that I learned about from our Career Development Office. I have also been able to start working remotely for my summer internship at the Chicago Community Trust affiliate, Elevated Chicago.

With plenty of room for flexibility, this is typically how my more productive days look. I try not to be too hard on myself to stick to any stringent guidelines because I also think it is so important to prioritize mental health during these times. No one expected this transition to virtual—or the stress of the unknown and the anxiety of a global pandemic. It is okay (and important) to be flexible, especially because the in-person experience that helped us thrive before has been so greatly reduced. I also think this experience has been a time to prioritize things outside of grades—things like mental health and relationships with friends and family.

 While this quarter has been different format than everyone anticipated, I am grateful for the opportunities for growth and personal reflection during this time.

If you enjoyed reading this post, also check out this post from Alec MacMillen, MSCAPP'20, on Graduating in the Midst of a Global Pandemic.