How I'm Spending Quarantine

When I first came home from Spain, I was overwhelmed by the craziness of having to suddenly pack up and move back to the US, sadness at my Fulbright suddenly ending and not getting to say goodbye to my new friends, and exhaustion. It took me some time to adjust to a new lifestyle, but since then, I’ve been staying busy and having a good time. I’ve enjoyed continuing some things I started prioritizing in Spain, and learning new things!

It’s nice to feel like I’m still living a fulfilling life, even if it’s different from the life I thought I would be living right now. It’s also been great to finally do things I wanted to do at some point but never would have made time for otherwise. I can honestly say I haven’t been bored once since the pandemic started. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

Research + Learning

The bulk of my time has been spent finishing up research I worked on during my Fulbright grant and also starting to meet with my future PhD advisor and joining in on lab meetings. In addition to spending a lot of time on research projects, I have been trying to stay up to date on current work in my fields by reading papers and attending conferences virtually (so far, ICCP, and parts of Eurographics and CVPR). I’m also doing an online course on how to get more familiar with various tools that computer science students and researchers use, which has so far been insanely useful - there will likely be a blog post to come on it.

Family + Friend Time

I’m loving all of this time with my family - we were definitely not expecting to have this much time together ever. It’s nice to eat all of our meals together, even lunch in the middle of our workdays, and to all go for a walk together every evening. I’m very close to my little sister so I have especially adored all of this extra time for us to truly be a part of each others everyday lives! She is a rising sophomore in college and also studying computer science so we have been taking that online course together.

I have also really valued staying in touch virtually (or on socially distanced walks) with friends from Fulbright, college, and my childhood. In some ways, the pandemic brought me and my Fulbright friends closer together, since we never would have had the crazy shared experience of suddenly leaving Spain and then grappling with the pandemic in the way we faced it otherwise. In general, it’s been nice to have time to reconnect with friends I haven’t talked with in a while.

Prioritizing Health

I’ve been loving consistently getting a solid 8 hours of sleep every night and never having any super late nights, as fun as going to Spanish clubs until 4/5/6/7 am was. I’ve been eating healthy and going on walks every day to get plenty of fresh air. I do miss my gym in Spain a lot, but I’ve gotten back into a consistent running/HIIT workout schedule and have also started doing yoga regularly.

Learning Hindi

I never learned Hindi as a child, but my parents are fluent in it (as well as English and 2 other Indian languages - they are incredible) and I’ve grown up watching Bollywood films, so learning Hindi has always been something I wanted to do but never had time for. I’ve been enjoying learning the alphabet and basic phrases, and then practicing with my entire family and asking them questions, making for another bonding activitiy. Having an excuse to watch some more Bollywood has also been an added bonus.

Photography

I know a lot about how photography works, since a lot of my research for the past year or so has been in computational photography, but I haven’t had access to my parents’ DSLR for an extended period of time until now. It’s been so nice to learn new tricks and practice. My photos mostly only consist of the flowers in my backyard, objects in my house, my family, and a few long exposure waterfall shots, so not the most variety, but definitely a lot of fun.

Community Involvement

I did a lot of sexual violence prevention work in college, which I’m happy that I was a part of, but also became very exhausting, so after college I needed a break from activism. Especially after George Floyd’s death just a couple of miles away from me, I’ve tried to once again take a more active role in doing helpful, and it’s been so nice to have the energy and time to do so. I have been trying to better educate myself and my family/friends, doing research on where to donate, and wrote this letter with some of my friends to try to better mobilize the South Asian community in Minnesota. If you are reading this, you should go here or here to sign petitions, find ways to help, and better educate yourself.

Writing

I’ve consistently kept a journal for a while, so it’s been nice to keep that up, but starting this blog has been a very different adventure! It’s fun to write with a little more purpose and try to write about topics that would hopefully actually be helpful for others, or that friends might want to read about.

Neerja Thakkar
Neerja Thakkar
Incoming EECS PhD Student @ Berkeley
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