When we were finally able to go back to school and resume semi-normal instruction, I had convinced myself that getting back into the groove of grinding for exams and having an impeccable work ethic would be muscle memory. However, I was mistaken and was quickly met with premature burnout and overwhelming stress. I had not realized how comfortable and routine online classes and exams were, so I was completely unprepared for in-person midterm season. And after experiencing it in its entirety, I now know that it’s important to avoid having unrealistic expectations for myself when adjusting to in-person exams.
I had not realized how much I missed the vibe of midterms season on campus. All students have a shared feeling of distress, and it’s hard to feel alone in that sense. Seeing everyone studying late with empty coffee cups or Yerba Mate cans littering the table gave me a sense of satisfaction knowing that things were going back to normal. But I was completely blindsided by how daunting midterms season actually was.
After two years of being disconnected from our professors and peers, many who were able to have in-person classes were thrown back into a normal lecture hall setting without any preparation but the summer before. Instead of phoning it in and logging onto a Zoom call five minutes before the start time, and having the luxury of most exams being open book, myself and many other UCR students had to fall back into the old routine of difficult, closed note exams.
All three of my classes for fall quarter were in-person, which meant that I had all of my midterm exams on campus. I underestimated how much time I needed to study for each exam and felt less confident after them compared to previous years. Being in lockdown completely killed my attention span, so it was hard for me to sit still and focus in a class for 1 hour and 20 minutes 一 let alone take an exam. I was so used to having exams with no time limit and being able to get up and do something else during a Zoom lecture that I forgot to manage my time, and as a result, I overworked myself to the point of premature burnout.
My biggest takeaway from this experience is to definitely learn how to space out study sessions and give myself more breaks. I also learned that I should not be so hard on myself when it comes to in-person midterm seasons. Many students probably share this same experience, so it’s important to remind everyone that mental health and rest is what matters the most. Going back to in-person instruction is an adjustment that takes time for everyone, and it’ll take some time until everyone is comfortable again. However, I have no doubt that everyone will be crushing it by finals season!