My examinations are over.
It is hard to believe, and right now I feel a bit lost. Suddenly my mornings are free, and although I have a to-do list for the forthcoming months (a pretty long one), there is some weirdness in this sudden lack of structure. I wanted to write here in part to counteract that feeling, but also to share with you some words of encouragement.
The last two weeks leading up to the examinations were bewildering, to say the least. The Little One got really sick two times in those two weeks. My husband had to take two days off work to take care of her and allow me some study time in the mornings. However, since he had to stay home with the baby, I did not really have a quiet house and it was hard to concentrate. The funny thing is that this was also the first time that The Little One was really sick since she was born, with a fever and everything. She passed the whole winter with just a runny nose every now and then and that was it. We were all feeling a bit lost: she did not know what was happening, and we could not relieve her of the general discomfort she was experiencing.
This had me on edge, because I struggled to follow my revision schedule. I still managed to cover more or less what I intended to cover, but I had this suffocating feeling that I was not doing things in the required depth. While we revise and the examinations draw nearer and nearer, it is easy to become engulfed by the goal and forget the process. It is so easy to stop living in the moment, and start looking too much towards the goal, because it is almost at hands’ reach. Yet I have found repeatedly that the best stress reliever is to realize, right in this moment, how much you have learned and forget as much as possible that you are going to sit an examination to prove it.
It is very useful to look back at where you stood at the beginning of the year, and where you stand right now. For example, I was not really familiarized with Renaissance literature-this year everything was new to me in terms of authors and works. Some of these authors I had heard about before, but I had not read them or knew where they stood in terms of tradition. After this course, I can confidently pinpoint their works, their historical significance, how they relate to their context and the issues that inform their work. And there are always new concepts and new perspectives that shed light over things you read before. While reading Utopia by Thomas More, I could not help but think of the Soviet Union, the dystopian novels of the 20th century, how the idea of freedom has changed over time… These reactions to what I read are invaluable to me because they are constantly signalling how my studies expand my horizons.
Holding on to this feeling will carry you through your examinations. The scariest thing about the papers is facing the unknown. But it is not really an unknown, is it? You have been exploring topics and authors the whole year, you are not a complete stranger to the issues of the era, and the examiners will ask for something related to it. Worst case scenario, you will have to adapt all that you have learned to fit the demands of the paper, which is not that bad. In fact, take this as an opportunity to show yourself how much progress you have made through the past months.
Lastly, be kind to yourself. We all have had issues. My daughter was sick while I was revising. Some have been in and out of the hospital the whole year. Others are swamped by their jobs and barely had time to read. We International Programmes students have to juggle many things along with our reading lists and revision schedules, but this will make the victory that much sweeter.
I think I should use my own advice to overcome the feeling of being lost. Right now, my examinations are over, I have done what was in my hand, and I should concentrate on making a fair evaluation of my year before getting examination results. And then, I will turn to my bucket list and have a productive summer.
Good luck to those of you still facing examinations!
Ana is studying the BA English by distance learning in Luxembourg