You know that expression that tells “you should stop to smell the flowers?” Well, I wish we had flowers now in good old Luxembourg, but it turns out we are covered in snow. So instead, I am smelling the snow and trying to devise a plan for the second half of this course year.
As every year, I had promised myself that I would try to open the books and study a bit through Christmas break, and as every year, I only managed to read five to ten pages of material in the two weeks out of the house. As expats, Christmas break is one of the few opportunities we have to gather with family and spend some time with them. This was The Little One’s first Christmas and everybody wanted to take part in it, so we had to make room for multiple family engagements.
To all of you who spent the holidays blissfully ignoring the subject guides like me, the New Year rings in the realisation that there are hardly 4 months to the final exams. As 2016 begins to fade into a glimmer and we are faced with a lot of catching up in terms of study goals, I would like to share some of my strategies for coping with post-holiday time crunch.
I recently graduated with a B.A. (Hons) in English from University of London, under the academic direction of Goldsmiths, University of London. This year I continued with University of London because I loved the flexibility, academic excellence and engaging courses. I am currently doing the Graduate Diploma in International Relations, a course developed by London School of Economics and Political Science. Due to the immense mobility of the degrees offered by UOLIP, I am able to study wherever in the world and whenever I choose while also continuing my work in dance and social work. This year I am living in Montreal, Canada and I am able to continue my studies while applying for postgraduate programmes for a 2017 intake at the same time.
I felt like a superhuman. I could be in multiple places at one time, engaged in various activities, and converse with more than one person at the same time. I felt that I was invincible.
Wouldn’t this make me the smartest person? Getting distinctions for my exams shouldn’t be difficult, right? Well, not quite. Recently, I noticed some significant changes in me. I had difficulty sustaining attention. When being spoken to, I often found my mind drifting away. You could be telling me about an unpleasant episode you had at work, with your neighbour or with your family, all in the hope that I, the listener, could empathise with you. Alas, I had a problem even remembering your antagonist’s name, much less the way he had caused you to be so upset.
This, without a doubt, was utterly disappointing. I wasn’t a superhuman after all.
It is no big secret what this “thing” is. I am quite sure that every one of you owns at least one, two, probably more.
I am one of those people sensitive to the amount of chaos around. If things are tidy and clean I find myself in good humor, but if things get out of hand, I turn into a grumpy, muttering Grinch. I know life can be messy: clothes running around, wrestling my dear dog into taking a bath, guests coming to visit, the garden getting out of hand now that all the leaves are off the trees… You tell me. However, I try not to let Chaos desecrate my haven of mental peace: my desk.
Having my own desk with an organized system is one of my non-negotiable needs. This space allows me to switch on to “study time”. When I sit there, my goal is to get in a mindset of focused mental activity, and knowing myself, if there are things scattered around I will not be able to concentrate on the task. Even if I am not distracted by the mess itself, my mind wanders more easily to issues unrelated to my studies.
By now, I guess many of you are already panicking about the workload of this year. For me, it is usually around this time of the year when the sheer reality of the task sinks in and so I feel myself doing reckless things, like waking up in the middle of the night and considering going to my desk to put a few hours in the books when I should be sleeping. The problem with stress, apart from the unpleasantness of feeling at the edge of the abyss, is that it clouds our judgement and it is easy to slip and make wrong choices (like extending our reading list unnecessarily, sleeping less or second-guessing our elections)
If this is your case, in this post I aim to give a few pointers on how to avoid feeling stressed or how to cope with the feeling if you ever get to feel this way.
Next week I will tell you about how moving and starting a new job drove me to distraction. This week I would like to say a word about how studying law has already helped me quite a bit in personal and professional projects. One reason this course appealed to me is its application to my work managing nonprofit organizations. It helps me to be better informed and be a better advocate. It does that in a few ways from subject knowledge to critical thinking and reasoning skills. That is really wonderful. It is the reason I chose this course. But there is something even better and more satisfying that I didn’t expect. Legal studies made me take notice of a few things in my vocation moonlighting as a novelist.
Last month, I talked about the importance of taking a break; the benefits of my temporal relief of a knotty problem encountered in any aspects of life, including studying. No matter how pressing a matter might seem to be at a moment, it always does me immense good when I pry myself away, so that I can return to it rejuvenated and ready to tackle it afresh.
So, what is the next stage following the “chilling” method? How did I get myself warmed up to the tons of reading that have piled up since the day I signed up for the modules of the next academic year?
I call this next stage the “thawing” method. It is when I immerse my mind in a semi-ready mode, or when I do not want to be switched off completely, while preparing myself to return to serious studying.
After a long hiatus that consists of two exams, and a couple of momentous but manageable events, I am glad to be back to writing on this blog. I have come to realise that the occasional skid in life is inevitable. However, we should always remember to get up, dust ourselves off, and get going. This is what life is about, isn’t it?
It is pretty much the same when it comes to baking; a new hobby that I have recently taken to. I bake almost once or twice a week now, sometimes even thrice. The excitement of how the cakes, cookies and breads will turn out, is an experience I could never get tired of. As I am still a novice, there are times when the final products did not turn out as I had imagined. I once made some disastrous-looking cookies that are so crumbly and wouldn’t hold together. In fact, they looked so awful that I think even Odysseus would rather eat something from Circe’s kitchen than my cookies.
One thing true about independent study that is also true for many goals is the natural inclination to ask ourselves if we can really do something. To set a goal, we have to evaluate our ability, our motivation, and our attitude. For me, one important thing about studying in the University of London International Programmes is how responsibility for outcomes is my own. I guess that can be true of other study models, but for me it is magnified in this one. It is one reason why I enjoy the program so much.
About two weeks ago, the results were released. Champagnes were popped, for those who were happy with what they achieved. Hairs were yanked from heads, for those who did not do well and wished they had put in more effort.
I am straddling the two. My feeling for my results, is something I still could not fathom at this moment. I would say that I did well enough to secure good passes, but not well enough to score distinctions. It gave a strange feeling that is worse than the lousy feeling I would feel, if I had failed the exams. I am aware that this daze, this inability to feel neither jubilant nor disappointed, could be potentially dangerous. Because gradually, from a state of daze I would soon be transformed into a languid mood. Needless to say, this would lead to my study plans for the new school term, being utterly jeopardised.