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New Year, new you

Credit: SALMA HUSSEIN

The new term is your chance to learn from your academic missteps and start fresh.


Salma Hussein | Interrobang | Lifestyles | January 10th, 2020




The winter holiday season has come to a close, and a mild dread creeps into our minds as we approach the new school year. I am sure that the fall exams were agonizing for a lot of you because it was far from a walk in the park for me.

As we step into a new decade, we need to reflect on past hardships and successes. Look at where we went wrong, and where we can improve. I know the phrase is worn out by the number of times it has been mentioned every new year, but here it is again: the New Year is a time of reflection and resolutions.

To those of you who have just finished your first post-secondary exams as I did, I want you to write down anything you can remember from the experience. How you felt, your thoughts, what you did to cope with stress if you did, and if you didn’t deal with the stress, did you let it consume you? Or did you bottle it up for your future self to deal with?

I know it will be hard to remember everything that happened in those dark times, as I am sure some of you are trying to repress those memories. However, if your experience was anything like mine, horrible and consuming, then you need to remember. Remember so that you don’t go through it a second time.

As I was studying for my first final exams, I remember feeling constantly choked by my thoughts that swirled around in my brain, a never-ending circle of doubts, anxiety, diminishing confidence, and an abundance of regret — all while trying to focus on the approaching exam and finding out how to study for the one that follows it in less than 24 hours.

It may have been only one week in reality, but that was one of the longest weeks I have ever had to endure. Sleep was cut down, Netflix was untouched, only fast food was bought, and more than 12 hours were spent at a time at the school. I only went home to sleep and eat dinner at an ungodly hour. I knew I would be sick after it was all over, but I refused to break down before the last exam was finished.

My peers describe a multitude of experiences during their first post-secondary exam period as well.

Taylor Addison and Jessica Friesen from the Western-Fanshawe nursing program explain how they coped through the final exam period.

“[My] eating increased and I would buy food from outside instead of my usual packed lunches from home. I got less sleep and all exercises stopped during exams,” Addison said.

“I found that studying for the first few exams was easier than the last ones because I was drained from constantly studying all day every day,” Friesen explained.

However, some of my peers were able to enter exams with a better approach and ability to cope with the overwhelming stress. Aira Guerrero and Quinn Salt from the Western- Fanshawe collaborative nursing program shared their stress-free mindset going into the final exams.

“In my experience, if you studied the material and prepared accordingly, you avoid overstressing and unnecessarily being anxious,” Salt said.

Experience is everything. I found that my older peers who have been through undergrad before and had multiple exams were able to pass through them more efficiently because they remembered their first times and improved each year.

“Finals felt like a breeze to me this year. I don’t get stressed, nervous or anxious anymore, so I was pretty calm and relaxed throughout it all. I learned that you either know the information or you don’t, so there is no point in stressing out for no reason. And whether I get a 65 or a 90 on an exam, my marks do not determine my intelligence, value, and most importantly, my potential,” explained Guerrero.

Listening to each person’s take on the exams, I found that your mentality going to exams takes a great role in shaping your thought process, actions, feelings, and behaviour while studying and in the testing room. You can either prepare yourself to be relaxed and ready to conquer, or you could easily prepare yourself to be devoured and consumed by your worries and anxieties.

We have stepped into the New Year, and consequently the new semester. This semester is a chance to take a look at our past experiences and build on them so that we can improve our lifestyle and health when we have to ride that exam train once again in April. So, if you were like me and burned out by the end of these exams, don’t dread the upcoming midterms or finals thinking that it’s going to be another hell, instead, remember your slips and falls and prepare yourself against a repetition of mistakes.

Use the heightened energy of the New Year and the beginning of term to develop a routine and good habits, and reference this past semester as an outline for things you need to improve on. I am certain that you have learned so much about yourself this past year as I can assure you that I have.

Going through this experience for the first time I wrote down every feeling I had so that as the semesters pass by, each exam period will be easier and easier, with less and less stress, until one day, in a surely brighter future, I can call exams a breeze.
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