The past few months have been a challenging time for people of every age, in all walks of life around the World. During this time Oxford Business College has been doing our very best to provide help and support to students who are learning from home. We want to offer advice and suggestions for those who are finding it difficult to keep up with their studies.

I’ve heard many people lamenting on public forums about the things they miss, or the activities they wish they could do instead of being at home all day. For me, the thing I miss the most is sitting in a cafe with a large coffee and reading a book. As an avid reader, one of my favorite places to read is in a cafe. And I’m certainly not alone. On any given day, before COVID-19 of course, it was possible to walk into any cafe or coffee shop around the high street and see maybe a dozen different people sitting comfortably reading a book or studying. So why, for most people, is it easier to read or study in a cafe than at home? One reason is because of how our brains are affected by ambient noise.

Ambient noise, or background noise is quite simply, all noise that fills our surroundings. For example, ambient noise in a cafe would be the low-level talking of other customers, the sound of the coffee machine, people giving their orders, customers’ orders being called, music being played in the cafe, and even the noise of traffic from outside the cafe. When all of these blend together, they create ambient sound. Normally, while we’re reading, we aren’t focused on any of those sounds. Sometimes we may listen in on a particularly interesting conversation or we might notice that someone hasn’t picked up their order because the barista has been calling out the same order for the past few minutes. But as we’re reading our book or studying, all of these sounds exist, but fade into the background while we remain focused on what we’re reading.

Ambient noise can help to increase our ability to imagine ideas and concepts that are not clearly defined and can enhance our performance on creative tasks. But if during this time, coffee shops and cafes are closed, what are some other ways for students to help themselves to focus? There have been many studies that have found a positive connect between music and studying. Specifically, classical music has shown the best results for several reasons:

  1. Music with lyrics can actually be more distracting because the words and voices in the song can disrupt our thought process while reading.
  2. Music with a strong beat or played too loudly can also have the opposite effect as it is harder for the brain to focus on what is being read.

Classical music, also called “the mozart effect” has shown many positive results. It has been known to:

  1. Help you to focus. A study has shown that students who listened to classical music during a lecture were able to remember more of the lecture than those who had no music playing in the background. One reason for this could be that the music blocks out other distracting noises and allows the student to focus on the lecture.
  2. Increase your mood. There are studies that show that classical music can raise dopamine levels and make us feel happier. It can also be used to help treat depression which is a valuable tool during this time of quarantine.

Of course, classical music is not the only form of music that has been shown to help. Many people use film musical scores or even video game music to help them focus on reading or studying. Whatever you choose to listen to, the bottom line is to make sure that the ambient noise you are creating is helping you to focus on your studies and not distracting you.

Oxford Business College is committed to ensuring you stay healthy and keep a positive mindset during this period of lockdown. The college will continue to make personal calls to check on each student individually. We want to make sure you are well and are progressing in your courses. We also welcome students to join the student council that regularly gives feedback to the college and remind you to keep a lookout for surveys and questionnaires that the College sends out. Answering these will help us to help you better.

Finally, if you do find yourself struggling with depression or you need someone to talk to, remember that our College Counsellor, Lynda, is on hand to help you with any emotional issues whether it be from the current COVID-19 crisis, or difficulty with your family, friends, work situation or even personal problems.You can contact the college and they will put you in touch with her. We want to make sure that you are not only surviving during this time, but thriving. Take care!