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Distance learning diaries: laptops, lessons and life


Written by

Saba, who recently completed the BSc Business Administration with Marketing, reflects on her student experience and describes the tools that guided her academic journey.

Two Muslim women using a tablet and taking notes

In 2020, when the world was caught in the grip of an unpredictable pandemic, I embarked on a daring quest.

I left my journey to become a doctor and decided to join the University of London's online, distance and flexible learning programme for a BSc Business Administration and Marketing with academic direction from Royal Holloway, University of London (crazy I know!).

It was a journey filled with twists and turns, but little did I know that this adventure would lead to unexpected discoveries, fantastic friendships, and a fair share of memorable moments.

Captured Moments 1: The pandemic peril

My journey began in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. As I joined the distance learning programme, it felt like stepping into a realm of uncertainty. But every knight needs a squire, and I found mine in a local teaching centre.

This place became more than just an institution; it was a hub of enthusiastic learners where we battled assignments and discussed theories related to the world of business. The camaraderie was like a superpower that helped us conquer the academic challenges that lay ahead.

Captured moments 2: The Brew Crew

Enter ‘Brew’, a local burger joint in Islamabad, Pakistan that would become the epicentre of our study adventures. After our virtual classes, we'd gather at Brew, armed with laptops and notebooks. But it wasn't just about studying; it was a place where we'd dissect the latest concepts and theories, unravelling their mysteries over delicious burgers and shakes (our favourite being ‘CopyCat’). The conversations were like treasure hunts, revealing hidden gems of understanding and fostering friendships that would last a lifetime

Captured moments 3: Lessons beyond the research room – the wizardry of Mr S

Amidst the chaos, there emerged a mentor like no other; Mr S was a visionary. His passion for cutting-edge topics like artificial intelligence (AI) was infectious. He didn't just teach; he ignited a fire within us, urging us to believe in our potential. Mr S equipped us with powerful tools: the art of crafting study outlines, breaking colossal tasks into manageable chunks, and the secrets of effective research. Under his guidance, we became knights of knowledge, ready to face any academic challenge.

Captured moments 4: The COVID-19 pandemic - the guinea pigs of education?

In the age of COVID-19, my trusty notebook made way for my loyal laptop. This transition to digital learning was like acquiring a new enchanted sword; it demanded adaptability and resilience. But it also opened doors to a world of online resources and possibilities, empowering me to navigate the virtual landscape with confidence.

This transition continued to be a crucial part of my academic journey, until pandemic restrictions were lifted, and we began meeting more in person again. Despite everything turning out just fine eventually, the transition was challenging.

Adapting to online assessments on a new platform created much discussion on our international students’ WhatsApp group! However, through it all, we learnt a lot about ourselves, our potential as students, and how we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Captured moments 5: The Marketing metamorphosis

As a Marketing major, classes like market research, digital marketing, brand management, advertising, consumer behaviour, and global marketing. were more than just lectures; they were gateways to a new world of knowledge.

They unlocked the secrets of advertising psychology, which exposes how brands could capture our hearts and minds. This information rewired my brain, transforming me into a sophisticated consumer capable of deciphering the mysteries of marketing. This transformative learning experience influenced my academic path throughout the years.

Captured moments 6: The global network

Beyond coursework, the distance learning programme at the University of London became a bridge to connect with extraordinary souls from around the world.

Through online forums and collaborative projects, I built bonds with fellow ‘adventurers’ hailing from distant lands. Therefore, what began as virtual alliances soon blossomed into genuine friendships, painting my journey with vibrant global colours.

This network of connections continued to grow and evolve as the world gradually returned to a semblance of normalcy in 2023.

Fast food: burghers, chips and juices

My study legacy

As I look back on my study adventure, spanning from the turbulent year of 2020 to the brighter days of 2023, I've collected a treasure trove of study tips and experiences that have shaped me into a more resilient and adaptable learner.

This journey wasn't just an academic expedition; it was a grand adventure filled with growth, camaraderie, and the wisdom of extraordinary mentors.

Armed with this knowledge and experience, I now stride confidently into the next chapter of my academic and professional life. I am ready to face whatever challenges await me in this new, post-pandemic world.

Reflecting on my journey, I've distilled some study tips that became my compass in this academic journey:

  1. Before you start writing an essay, develop an outline; it's your roadmap through the academic jungle.
  2. Set deadlines that align with your rhythm (being realistic with them is the key).
  3. Craft goals that are both challenging and attainable.
  4. Balance creativity with adherence to coursework guidelines; it's a tightrope walk.
  5. Seek feedback relentlessly; it's the compass that keeps you on course.
  6. Study smart, not just hard; it's the secret sauce to success).
  7. Never give up or get disheartened with one failure or piece of negative feedback – keep trying.
  8. Make use of the UoL portals to connect with coursework tutors; their guidance is a lifeline.
  9. The UoL online library ( is a remarkable resource, offering free access to a wealth of research papers and course materials. Be sure to leverage its vast collection when crafting your essays.
  10. Begin planning your essays as early as possible; imagining you can do it and actually sitting down to work on them are two distinct challenges.
  11. As you commence your essay writing journey, it's normal to feel a bit clueless and, honestly, blank. The introduction, often the trickiest part, is where many struggle to begin. However, with time, you'll find your footing, and the words will start to flow.

We poured our efforts into our UoL degrees, but we hadn't quite realised how profoundly these degrees have worked on us. It was an unpredictable journey, but in the end, it transformed us for the better, and I sincerely hope it does the same for you.

Good luck with your study adventure!

Saba studied BSc Business Administration with Marketing