Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The Plight Of The (University) Student (During Exams)

Disclaimer: This post was written in the midst of my first set of exams at Cave Hill (Barbados) in my second year of law. Let me set the scene:- I am a law student reading for my Bachelor of Laws at UWI. I am in the Cave Hill programme which means I am away from home. Law exams are 100% finals and you have 2 hours to do 3 essays. That’s right. Your fate is decided within two hours and you have to write as if you are already a legal scholar because that is the caliber of person that will be marking your paper. No pressure, right? Now on to the post.

You’ve found yourself staring into space and you’re pretty sure your mind should be filled with some edifying thought and yet….it’s not. You snap back to reality and realize this has been happening more and more lately. Could you be developing early onset dementia? Is there even such a thing? What are all these papers doing---? Oh, that’s right, you are not experiencing memory loss due to some physiological malfunction- you are, in fact, in exam mode. You get up to look in the mirror and you see the physical manifestation of the mental and emotional stress that your body has been under, most of which you cannot legitimately be expected to control. I mean, who goes through exams looking normal and, dare I say, attractive? Show them to me; I’d like to have a word with them in a dark room.

 Now, as you go through life, you begin to realize that tests are a significant portion of it. If you have academic dreams, you realize that these tests are standardized and that THEY WILL NEVER END. One would think that eventually, you get used to them and will thereby be able to coast after a while, no? One could not be more wrong. Exams are weapons of mass destruction used to weed out the weak and break the strong. I care not how they package them, exams are evil.

You give yourself pep talks or you get them from your support group (family, friends etc). You make study timetables and try to manage your time wisely. You tell yourself “You can do this!” so many times, yourself starts replying “Shut Up!” You begin to realize… are talking to yourself way too much for it to still be considered healthy. You look around for solace in your colleagues and classmates and it hits you- we are all in this together but we are all alone. Melodramatic, huh? Well, if you have not experienced melodramatic moments during exam time, I’d like to see you in a dark room as well. This post is to let you know that your plight does not go unnoticed and it may or may not pay off (no sugar-coating) but, just so you spend less time beating up on yourself for things you cannot control, here are some givens about exams periods which you should just accept and adjust to

All rules about grooming go out the door. Men, this is a good time to try that scruffy look. You will be excused. Ladies, get those hoodies and sneakers washed and cleaned and say bye to high-maintenance hairstyles. No one will notice the effort you put in any way. For reasons unknown, guilt accompanies any acts of grooming that are above the bare minimum. Note, that you should not sacrifice hygiene. People will notice your funky breath and body odour

A deeper connection with one’s faith will occur. Even the atheist and agnostics get in touch with some kind of spirituality when trying to remember that one theory by that one guy that that one lecturer said you MUST mention and you have somehow forgotten.

You may forget to eat…or sleep. Often times, we find ourselves choosing between one of these two. We may find ourselves too tired to eat even though we are hungry but the time it would take to go make something to eat could be spent studying or resting to study some more. I recommend doing one’s best to deviate from this belief of sacrifice, however, because the body needs to be healthy to perform to its highest potential. The stress of studying is already challenging it. You need food so you can have the energy to study. You need rest so that your body (notably your brain) can recharge when you have depleted it of all its energies.

You may find your social life to be all but non-existent. This may be a good thing. Eliminate (temporarily) all the distractions that will deter you from your end goal. The parties, social networks and even recreational activities like reading and doing puzzles get put on pause, unless, of course, you happen to be so lucky as to be majoring in one of these. Don’t worry, it will all be there for you to enjoy after exams. You don’t want the guilt of having not given your all to be hanging over your head the whole time you are to be on break so do what needs to be done now so you can do whatever you feel like when exams are over.

You may have aggressive thoughts about your lecturers. Rest assured, this is the most normal behavior of them all. J I kid. It may or may not be a lack of quality performance on the part of the lecturer that led to you being inadequately prepared for any one or more exams but this is something you should have picked up on soon enough and you should have been proactive in your education- seek the knowledge yourself; it’s your grade after all.

You may find yourself contemplating a career change. Suddenly the field of "hustling" gains so much appeal to you. For law students, it is likely that your mind starts to wander and careers that are on the OTHER side of the law begin to seem...not-so-bad. All I'll say where this is concerned is: Don't quit your day job until revenue is a surity in your new one. Also, this is not an encouragement to stray to the wrong side of the tracks so I will not be held liable for any such changes in career and I will not be defending any of you in the future. :)

If you read this and none of these behaviours are common place for you, just know that no one likes you and those of us who are affected wish for you to disappear.

A Student Being Ravaged By Exams

P.S. Now that you know all of this, please proceed to notice these behaviours within yourself and realize that it is a normal and arguably necessary phase of your life. It is not the end. Exams are about slow torture, they would not kill you so quickly. It has been done before and it will be done after. Remember that no institution, grade or accolade is worth your sanity and align your practices with your goals in the most efficient manner possible. Rather than study hard, study smart. Learn what works for you. And take vitamins. Stress weakens your immune system and you do NOT want to be sick during exam time.

(All pictures were taken from Google Images)


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