A Look Back at Semester One

A Look Back at Semester One

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Things I learned from the first semester, things to change in the second one

Ananya Handa, Contributor

The winter semester is upon us and just like every other year, I have once again decided to get my life together. We do this at the start of every semester: set some goals, try to remain consistent, and usually, by week three, we fall back into our old patterns. This time though, I may have actually figured out some goals that are realistic and would definitely carry me through the entire semester instead of giving up by the end of January, and worry not, I am here to share the secrets.

Scheduling myself … realistically.

One of the worst things I used to do is schedule every second of my day: 

  • Wake up at 8 am
  • Finish breakfast and get dressed by 10 am
  • Study from 10 am to 2 pm

It never worked. For one, I couldn’t even wake up by 8 am because I’m a night owl and it is something I had to accept to be more productive this semester. I realized that I don’t work well with such a rigid, strict schedule and I absolutely cannot start functioning before 10 am. So these past few weeks, instead of waking up at 8, I set my alarm for 10. I set aside time to work out in the evening instead of the morning, and I listed the goals I had for the day and completed them at my own pace, instead of specific time blocks.

Don’t study all the time.

It is so easy to slip into the constant cycle of stress and study when you’re at U of T. The study culture here can exhaust you very quickly and by the time reading week comes around, I’m always burned out. The major goal I have for this semester is to take care of myself a little more. I have started setting aside 45 minutes just to myself every night before bed.

Try to get seven hours of sleep every night and do your level best, instead of constantly stressing out. It’s okay if you fall a little behind, spend a weekend catching up. It’s okay if you do badly on one test, use the other ones to make up for it. Be kinder to yourself because, more often than not, one assignment will not break your entire GPA.

Stress less, do more.

Another thing I am doing, instead of stressing out about everything I have to do, is focusing on one day and one goal at a time. This way I can focus more and worry less, and I end up completing a lot more work than last semester. I determine realistically what I can complete in one day and only do those few things. If I’m left with extra time because I happened to finish my goals sooner than I thought, I’ll take some extra time to myself and relax, rather than add another task. 

Use as many resources as possible.

U of T has a lot of academic resources and unfortunately, I never quite used too many of those in the past semesters. This time, though, I’m using the research and writing advice appointments at St. Mike’s writing centre and some at New College because I’m doing two New College courses. SMC has research appointments that will help you figure out how and where to research, and will even help you select your topic. The writing appointments help with organizing your thoughts and improving the general writing for your papers. I’m also consulting a learning strategist to generally organize my existence because I’m doing too many things and I need to learn to not procrastinate until the last minute. Procrastination definitely impacts my mental health negatively, which is what I want to avoid this semester.

Advice from first years:

As a fourth-year student, I felt like it was important to ask some first-years about what they learned in their first semester and what they plan to change in the second semester. So here’s what some of them said:

  1. Most of the things in class involve self-learning, so take out time after lectures to master the concepts.
  2. Go to office hours. A lot of things that you might not understand in class can get cleared up during office hours because it’s more one-on-one time.
  3. Make more friends and be more diverse in friend groups, rather than just having one friend because, more likely than not, initial friendships can fizzle out and may not stick.
  4. Take time for yourself. When you’re procrastinating, go out and have fun instead, get a change of scenery, and then get back to your work. You’ll feel better and be more productive.
  5. Keep and focus on small goals, instead of bombarding yourself with the bigger picture of everything you need to finish.

I hope the things I, and some of the first-years, learned will help at least some people avoid the mistakes I’ve been making. After all, learning from others’ mistakes won’t cost you, so make the most of it.