As my first semester in college comes to an end, I wish there was some way I could rewind to August 26th and redo it knowing what I know now about what I'm like as a student. College really requires you to know your capabilities as a student. Online classes have been really draining and hard to keep up with for me, both because of the sheer amount of content I struggled to learn and because of the constant loneliness that plagued me as I studied alone in my room from before the sunrise to the early morning hours. For anyone out there who may have felt the same way, I want to share a few of my realizations that I hope to improve as this semester closes out and a new one approaches.
1. Know your boundaries.
I've always heard that pre-meds need to have extracurriculars that demonstrate what they are passionate about, both within and outside the field of science. With this in mind, I ended up joining too many extracurricular activities. I filled up my plate too quickly at the beginning of the semester when my classes were still easy (relative to now) and when I still had a lot of energy. It quickly and effectively burnt me out by the middle of the semester, and now I'm just struggling to finish off the semester to the best of my ability. Choose maybe just one or two new clubs to join and devote some of your time to—and don't be afraid to decline when someone new invites you to something. You know yourself and what you need the best, so if you know you can't handle it, take a step back and don't force yourself to do more.
2. Studying can get lonely, so try to find a study group!
For a good chunk of the semester, I found myself struggling to find the will to sit at my desk after a grueling day of lectures and continue to grind out work for assignments or upcoming tests. Fortunately, I was able to make friends in one of my smaller classes and in a cultural club who were willing to study with me over Discord. Making new friends hasn't been easy in the remote learning environment, but I'm thankful that someone decided to reach out and befriend me. I've appreciated this more and more as the semester continued—even though I don't necessarily share classes or majors with these friends, just being able to see them on a call studying by my side was enough to encourage me to keep going.
3. Utilize your resources, and know when (and how) you work best.
Something I'm guilty of not doing enough of this semester is going to office hours to get help with concepts that I struggled with. Maybe it was a result of how awkward it felt to have to have one-on-one Zoom calls with professors and TAs I have yet to meet in person, but the fact still stands that they are there to help us learn. I will do my best to attend office hours next semester, especially for the classes I struggle with more. I also tried to force myself to learn a new "study routine" where I would wake up early and try to sleep early. This ended up being really counterproductive, especially since I know that I tend to be more productive at night. I also ended up chronically tired because I would try to force myself to work in between classes and then continue to work at night after classes. It felt like I never got a break, and I would end up running out of energy to study the next day. Instead of trying to fit an idealized routine, identify your strengths and best productive hours and use them to your advantage!
As the semester wraps up, I wish us all the best of luck with finals, and please take care of yourselves moving forward.