Summer School, Summer Woes

Before university, back in the good ol’ days, the first day of school was something I anticipated. Finally, I’d see everyone again! The end of bumming around and finally seeing everyone again would get me excited. Especially during high school, it seems like there was always somebody would always grow a head taller or whose face would now have facial hair.

University has changed that. After two measly weeks of “summer,” another semester commences. While everyone else is posting pictures on Facebook about their epic summer adventures, I can only offer a fake smile when explaining my current situation to my friends in the States. “Yeah, summer ended for me already.” Instead, what I have is six weeks of intense studying. Since I’m taking 1.5 credits this term, my weekly schedule consists of four daily two-hours classes and two two-hour classes. When university eased me into a pretty relaxing weekly routine, having everything this intense is a new change. Instead of a week, I now only have a day to finish forty-page readings. The midterm? Oh, it’s in two weeks. A research paper? Due in four weeks. Besides the obvious academic challenges, the social challenges are great too. It’s rare to run into someone you know wherever you go, and the absence of extracurriculars makes it even lonelier.

But on the bright side?

I’d like to think that summer school does not carry the connotation it had back in the days. Instead of taking it because of a failed class, I’m doing it for intellectual pursuit, lightening the workload for next year, and using time productively. That’s what I’m convincing myself with.

Trust me, it helps when your friends keep inconsiderately posting pictures of themselves on exotic beaches, and you’re reveling that you can Facebook stalk them in lecture since you have Wi-Fi access.

Welcome Out Of Hibernation!

Welcome out of hibernation U of T students, and welcome to the home stretch. It’s dangerously beautiful out – so much sun can be damaging to our fragile GPAs – and all the quads on campus are brimming with study picnics and pale, smiling faces. It seems to me that when spring starts to cautiously creep in, a veil of winter-induced gloom that I didn’t even realize was there is lifted from my mind, and the warmth and brightness puts me in a giddy mood that not even a slew of essays and exams can ruin.

However, every season is accompanied by its own little anxieties: work in the summer, back to school in the autumn, heavy workload in the winter, and then there’s spring. Spring is a time of exams and final assignments being due, but spring is also a time of planning. Spring is a season of decisions. As my friend lamented to me this week, the difficult, adult, pain-staking decisions never seem to end. It’s when we get our summer jobs or plan our summer trips, decide whether we’re going back to hometowns or staying here, enroll in summer school or apply to study abroad. And planning, of course, is stressful – whether we’re waiting on a job interview or seeking the right class to take or trying to budget for next year to figure out how much we need to make this summer.

Between planning for summer and finishing up school,  I always wish I could just pause everything for a moment so I can catch up to myself, as all the things as I have to do get away from me and the checkboxes of my endless to-do lists pile up on one another.  And with the sun outside, the friends in the quad, and the warm, happy weather, procrastination is still inevitable.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about plans and decisions; and what I’ve come up with certainly reflects the lazy glee that seems to characterize my response to the spring. It’s a brilliant philosophy, really: it will all get done. Stay on top of school, even if you’re writing your essays in the great outdoors, and advocate for yourself to make your summer plans come together. Try not to panic as summer plans are often necessarily made last minute. And most importantly, don’t be afraid if your plans change. That’s the nature of plans – they change. Whether it’s 3 months before or 2 days, plans have a tendency to fall apart and completely reconstruct and look different altogether. Put yourself first.  Get your work done.  Stay happy in the irresistible spring weather – somehow, everything will come together beautifully.


Oh the things we do when we study

From the blog

C’mon, we’ve got our study habits. Some of us bite our nails, while others rest their heads on their books because being in close proximity to them “helps you study” (guilty). I’ve asked people what their study habits are and… well, you’ll see.

Groovin’ and Movin’

Sorry! I know that was a cheesy heading. I blame it on peristalsis and rhythmic muscles of the gastrointestinal tract.

We all have our jams and playlists. I either listen to intrumentals (I recommend Chris Botti if you love jazz trumpet) or something that is easy to sing to (Richard Marx, anyone?). Some of you may also do drum solos on your laptop, desk or wall. Others may belt out solos like nobody’s business (guilty again). Whatever it is, remember to be considerate of your neighbors/roommate/comrade-at-arms. You may think you’re doing a wicked solo, but your roommate may not. Unfortunately, not all of us are the next Susan Boyle.

Point of no return

It’s 4am, and your mind is so scrambled you could eat it instead of eggs. You are what you eat, right? blogUT co-editor Lori says that when she gets to that point in studying, she forces herself to finish the last paragraph and really understand it before stopping.

So you’ve stopped studying, your nerves are running high and now you’re just staring at the ceiling, contemplating your impending doom. What should you do? Someone said that she would watch a movie before going to bed. I would recommend meditation to get you back in the zone.

Maybe you shouldn’t do that…

We are all civilized young people. We have a colourful vocabulary. It should come to no surprise that many of us cuss like a pirate with his leg chopped off. Admittedly, it’s a form of stress relief, but remember to not take that language to the street! I once watched a friend swear while she ranted about her final only to be scolded by a grandmother walking with her grandchild. Probably not the best thing that can happen.

A friend told me he enjoys watching TV and cramming during the commercials. I call that guilty pleasure. I mean, I know I do it by going online and cramming while a YouTube video loads, but we all know that that is definitely not a good way to study.

Another friend of mine chooses to take 5-hour “naps” and wake up at 3am to study before going to sleep again. Another pulls allnighters consistently throughout the week. What I do when I have to keep myself awake is look for the strongest tea and coffee I can find and brew them together. Caffeine galore, but please, don’t do it too often (or at all). The shakes lasts for days.

We do some pretty crazy things when we study. What are your weirdest, quirkiest study habits?

Lessons they should’ve taught you in high school…

After two and a half hours of helping an ickle EngSci froshie with choosing her electives, it finally dawned on me that I was actually in fourth year. Not that it really means anything superbly important for that matter (except for maybe that I should start figuring out what I should do once I graduate) but for now, being in fourth year means that I’ve left high school behind a long, long time ago. Looking back, I’ve realized that most of high school was a waste of time and that instead of calculus and career studies, they should’ve taught us the following in order to prepare us for university:

1. The art of BS – because part marks are your best friends

Whether you’re an arts student or a science student with an arts elective, learning to write as if you know everything without knowing anything at all is a crucial skill. If you’re already a master of BS, take it to the next level and learn to coherently word vomit – in other words, having the ability to write coherent paragraphs/essays by spitting every single detail you’ve learned in class because you’ve completely blanked out on a question.

2. Knowing how to slack off in a smart way

Face it, sometimes, it is actually impossible to get all those readings done. Now, I’m not telling you to go procrastinating and slack off all the time, but even the best of students find themselves buried in a pile of readings that just can’t be done. There are some classes where lectures won’t be worth going to (trust me, all of you will have a class like this) or readings that have absolutely no value to your exams and essays. Instead of just plain skipping these classes or readings, try organizing a study group that takes turns taking notes for class or readings. Read the notes before tutorials/exams/whenever. In first and second year, doing your readings for tutorials are a big part of your marks so if you’re really pressed for time and haven’t read this week’s readings, read (or at least skim) the introduction and conclusion of your readings. They should give you a rough outline of what it’s all about.

3. Learning to be nocturnal… and go to class in the morning

Sleep? What’s that? Now, if you’re done asking me stupid questions, I’d like to get my coffee.

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