Ever heard of “the hustle”? Maybe you could try picturing this…
You wake up at 6.30 am despite feeling both mentally and physically exhausted from a long hard yesterday. You check your email for work updates on your phone before (and even after) brushing your teeth and getting dressed. You then rush over your breakfast (if a single cup of expresso counts as one) and head straight over to your university campus, where you spend the entire day working through lectures, revising intensely in between classes, followed by drowning yourself in extracurricular activities that you are participating in for the sake of having something that looks good on your CV.
My end of year exams start next week (six exams in three weeks so not super intense), and it’s usually around this time of year that the fear of failure tends to peak for me. Like many others I am sure, I struggle to believe in my own abilities. Impostor syndrome is very real, and a hurdle we have to deal with.
I usually try to focus on my own work and not compare with my peers about how much work we are each getting done or test scores. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses, and all our situations are different.
I’m fairly confident that we’ve all been there at some point during our lives.
You check your exam grades on Blackboard (the virtual learning environment that Imperial uses) or finally got your graded coursework back from your lecturer, and it’s right there – a grade that is way below your standard of excellence.
You reflect on the time you’ve spent working or preparing for this. It was clear – you’ve poured in your heart and soul. An immediate sadness follows suit, and your mind gets clouded with a similar train of thoughts – wait, how? How did all of this go so wrong?
As we are in our third lockdown here in the UK, most of us have been accustomed to the new virtual life and have found many ways to keep ourselves occupied and productive during these long hours at home. Adapting has not been the easiest for me and even though I am pretty much an introvert, I am not capable of changing my lifestyle in a blink of an eye. That is also the reason why it took me much longer than others to finally decide to return back to Malaysia last academic year, as I needed time to accept that the rest of the academic year would be conducted virtually.
Prior to coming to Imperial, I’m sure most of us were at the top of the class, top of the school or even top in the state. We were always constantly verified on our capabilities because things came easily for all of us. Likewise, I excelled in my GCSEs and had no worries balancing my academics with my hobbies and social life. The mindset I was in can best be described by being a big fish in a small pond. I had limited knowledge about things happening outside of my school, much less my country and was living my best life in my sheltered bubble.
Has anyone else been in a studying slump lately? I have been finding it hard to motivate myself to do revision or even to attend lectures and make notes. Time to reset to work out what study techniques are working for you. I did not change the way I studied until I got to university. I used to just look over my class notes, highlight important parts and attempt practice questions. After I got into medicine, I quickly realised those methods would not serve me as well as they did in high school.
Here is a list of some tangible tips I been trying over the past year (with links to apps and resources):
Stop spending more time planning studying and study!
I am currently in my third year of medical school and the road has definitely been up and down in terms of enthusiasm for the course. In all honesty I at times envy those who seem to have this consistent and unbreakable passion for Medicine and its extracurriculars. There have been times I’m in love with it; I see this being what I need to do. I meet patients and I just can’t imagine doing anything else with my days from the conversations had and the gratitude received. The way we navigate conversations with individuals opening a side many people maybe rarely ever see.
During this pandemic specifically I think it’s important we all recognise a certain practice we can do to free up our mind when we become too emotional or overwhelmed. That practice will work differently between people but to have something to take you very much out of a stressful situation is so important – for anyone. If we consider some ideas, some of my friends like reading, working out, watching Netflix, going on Instagram (careful here haha), dancing, prayer… for me, it’s to make art.
Making art does several things for me. To start with, it’s physically a very soothing practice when I’m overthinking a situation.
Studying at a place like Imperial can definitely challenge you mentally.
You would most probably meet some of the brightest and smartest people who have never received anything below a First-Class grade and/or have been awarded the Dean’s list every single year without fail. Alternatively, you may have come across young company founders who are basically entrepreneurial geniuses. Or perhaps, the person who is sitting next to you during lectures could be the President of a large student society or someone holding multiple job offers from prestigious firms.
And the list goes on.
My best guess is that you would have most likely heard about the importance of not comparing yourself with others.
The transition from 2020 to 2021 has been a quiet one. Although I did spend it with my flatmates, there were sadly no fireworks by the Thames, no countdown at Trafalgar square, no free bus/tube rides at 2 AM, no meeting up with friends who live far away… It almost doesn’t feel real that a whole year has passed since the pandemic began.
And what a year it has been. The sudden social-distancing rules, the ever-changing lockdown tiers, the closing of national and international borders, the fear of viral infection and the overload on NHS services have all taken a toll on everyone.