It’s that time of year again! It’s easy to get distracted by social media or Netflix during this time, but as this chart goes to show, you are often better off living your life simply. Read a book, catch up with some friends…and for God’s sakes, remember to shower and do your dishes!
I don’t know about the rest of you, but as I sit at my desk rummaging through my notes and trying to remember the most intricate details for my upcoming exams, I feel that I am constantly badgered by various stores telling me to buy their stuff.
On any given day of this festive December month, I wake up to about 10 promotional e-mails telling me about how NOW is the time to explore their various sales and Christmas events. While each one tempts me to take the path of consumer’s lane and make my hands itch to pull out my credit card and dive into an episode of binge spending from which I would emerge both satiated and repentant, I am gradually brought back to reality by the pile of books sitting in front of me, ready to be explored.
This is the conflict of the holiday season. Students – while tempted to enjoy the jolly times with the outdoor skating rinks opening (i.e. Nathan Phillips Square), with lights going up everywhere, with Christmas music pouring out of every store and public establishment, and with the persistent push to buy, buy, buy, and buy some more – are rutted in a state of conflict. As they observe the holiday season come in, and take place and grow, they are stuck in their own little season called the Exam Period.
As a U of T student, I feel myself missing out on the little nuances of the beginning of the holiday season simply because I am forcing myself to focus on what I am told is more important – my studies. The exam season, while indispensable to those who want to strive in their university career, seems to rob us of the little things that were so vital to us as little kids.
So, for those of you who do celebrate Christmas (or any other holiday) this season, I propose a few tips (I will try to follow my own advice as well):
1. Make some sort of holiday decoration for your room to remind you of the holidays even if your nose is in a book!
2. If your holiday involves presents, start wrapping! I myself took an hour to wrap my family gifts and they are sitting in a pile reminding me that it will not be long before I am done with exams.
3. If there are any student holiday events taking place around you (however small) take part in them, for at least a few minutes. Do not let the necessity of studying take over every facet of your life (and that is advice that should be taken at all moments of the year!).
4. (Last one, I promise) Drink hot chocolate – with some sort of holiday snack – ‘cus there is no better way to endure the cold and the books than with a wonderful mug of sweetness and comfort!
So, with no further ado, I leave you promptly so that I can return to studying, while also perusing through some of the online Christmas sales, and thinking of how better to vamp up this holiday spirit of mine… I am a multitasker after all!
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.
Freshmen 15: You gain 15lb during first year and lose 15% by the end of first year
Exams Week 15: You gain 15lb during exams and lose 15% by the end of exams
I always study with food.
And when I say ‘food’, I don’t mean a nice healthy meal. I mean chocolate, cookies, cakes, crackers, chips, candy… sugar. My logic behind it is that since I’m using my brain so much to study, I need to get lots and lots of energy… These cavity-encouraging study sessions happen constantly in the week before exams, when there’s honestly not enough time for me to be cooking myself a full meal 3 times a day (oh the woes of not having a meal plan or parents to cook for you).
So today, I have decided to share with you all the wonderfully quick (and energy packed) foods that you can make with nothing more than just a microwave! (And the ingredients. [And some other stuff])
Crackers (Graham or regular, your choice)
Chocolate (chips or bar)
Mush-mellows (the big ones work better)
This is really self explanatory. Take a cracker, put 1 piece of chocolate (or to taste) on it, balance a big puffy mush-mellow on the chocolate and stick it in the microwave for ~10sec. I usually microwave 3-5 at the same time and watch the mushies start to puff. It’s going to give me cancer, but it’s quite the scene. Once the microwaving is done you can just add another cracker on top to sandwich it.
1/2 Teaspoon baking powder (optional if you want nice fluffy cake)
9 Tablespoons Hot Chocolate powder (substitute other chocolaty goods)
3 Tablespoons milk
3 Tablespoons Oil
1 Microwave safe mug
Does this sound strange? It’s actually quite cool, though it does take a lot more ingredients. First, you can smooth some oil over the interior of the mug to ensure the cake doesn’t stick. Then, what you want to do is put the dry powdered ingredients (flour, baking powder, hot chocolate) into the mug, beat the egg in and mix in the milk and oil. Once your concoction is complete, simply microwave the whole thing for 3 minutes. Wait for it to cool a bit and take the mug out; you should see a lovely cake sitting inside it. Feel free to mess with the ingredients and maybe use Nutella instead of hot chocolate?
~1 teaspoon Oil
1 Microwave safe Plate or bowl
Plastic wrap (optional)
Bet you didn’t know you could fry eggs with just a microwave! Just crack the egg into the plate/bowl and use something clean to poke the yolk’s membrane. Do be careful with this one; you’ll have to watch the egg as it gets microwaved because all microwaves are different. I recommend 2 minutes to start and if the egg is still very liquified, add another minute. Not recommended for people who are allergic to eggs or prolonged micro-waves hitting skin cells.
1 Pack instant noodles
1 Microwave safe bowl
Put noodles in a bowl, add the powdery goodness and fill with enough water to just cover the noodles. Microwaves all vary so I’m going to say it’ll take 3-5 minutes to make instant noodles this way. Watch out, it’s hot when it’s done!
And these are just the starters! But before I finish, here’re some MICROWAVE SAFETY tips:
NEVER put tin foil in the microwave – It WILL burn (with fire and flames and the whole set)
Don’t leave microwave unattended when you’re using it – You never know what might explode
When boiling water with a microwave, let it sit and cool before using it – If you add things, relatively pure water might still explode on you
Most things will come out of the microwave HOT – Be warned.
If your microwave explodes, it’s a good idea to call for help
Note: The author is not to be held responsible for any explosions, odd smells, burnt food or other catastrophes that come about your own microwave failures. So please, BE CAREFUL
I can feel it in the air – that distinct sense of shifting, as students are handing in their last essays and attending their last few lectures; the end of the semester is finally approaching, and as usual, it looks gruesome. The exam period – not only the actual writing of the tests, but the process of studying – overnights at Robarts, rewriting and rereading, cue cards, highlighters, coffee, sweatpants, snow, slouching – is just around the corner. It’s not a pretty time for U of T students, but it’s always laced with the comforting knowledge that winter break, that brief pause in our otherwise non-stop academic year (pardon me – there was that oh-so-satisfying “micro reading week”) where we might do a bit reading for year-long courses, but mostly can sleep, breathe, eat, and do all those other things that normal, non-U of T students do regularly and might consider, in fact, necessary to human survival.
I’m hoping to maintain my peace of mind during exam season this year, and while I know those moments of panic are unavoidable, there are certainly a lot of opportunities on campus for students to relax and defeat the stress plague, if only momentarily.
Hart House offers a variety of programs to soothe the stressed student:
Massage Mondays – Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like. Free massages, because U of T knows – you deserve it.
Lunchtime Crafts – Personally, I find arts and crafts to be really relaxing – though, of course, I have never produced anything presentable. Distract yourself with a little A&C, and who knows, maybe you will produce a great work!
ThursTeas – Enjoy a warm cup of tea at Hart House while chatting with some new friends or reading a (non-school related, perhaps) book.
Let Shakespeare distract you with the production of Macbeth playing at Hart House Theatre until November 26.
Jazz at Oscars – This free event every Friday night brings all sorts of different music to the Hart House Arbor Room. Be entranced by live music to distract yourself from stress. The monthly Sunday concert in the Great Hall might also be of interest.
It’s difficult for students to keep up exercising during exam time, but sometimes going to the gym is exactly what you need to wake you up and keep you studying productively. Both the Athletic centre and Hart House offer a wide variety of drop-in fitness classes. The AC has free yoga among its repertoire, certainly a relaxing pastime.
The Multi-Faith Centre offers a variety of yoga and meditation courses over the term, designed to help you relax and find peace of mind.
Every Friday night at Innis Café, story tellers come deliver tales for “1001 Friday Nights of Storytelling”, a tradition which has been running since 1978. A well-told story could be just the right thing you need to wind down and distract yourself from the looming stress of exams. Innis Town Hall also has inexpensive movies playing throughout the exam period, which may also serve as a welcome distraction.
Exam period is one I clearly characterize as bleak, but I think there are definitely ways to limit your stress. You do yourself a disservice by climbing under a pile of books in a library for a week and not facing the light of day until you are forced to enter the outside world in order to walk to your exam destination. Taking some time during the exam period to not study for exams will make the time you spend studying all the more productive. It’s always a pleasant feeling to realize that the world is going on when you feel like it’s ending, so allow yourself to bear witness to that comforting truth by taking a break. Whether it’s a yoga class, or just a walk around our beautiful campus, indulge yourself this exam period, if only for a moment.
We’ve come to the end, friends. It’s finally time for exams, which means we’re that much closer to seeing that metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel. SO DAMN CLOSE! Just a few more sleepless nights and precious moments shared with your books in Robarts and you’ll be free!
On behalf of the blogUT team, we’d like to wish you all luck on your exams and extend an early congratulations cuz we know you’ll rock ’em.
And of course, a little video that accurately describes our lives to distract you all!
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?