Blogmas 2018 Day Eleven: Tips for Exam Prep During the Holidays

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I think perhaps one of the cruellest things that they do in uni is scheduling the final exam period during the Christmas holidays. How am I supposed to focus on studying when I’ve got Christmas goodies to bake and things to decorate and presents to buy?! It’s really been a challenge during my couple years of uni thus far. Like most people, I already find it difficult enough to study for exams in the first place. I have a really tough time getting myself to hunker down and focus when I could be doing so many other things!! But in the December exam period, it’s nearly downright impossible for me to be motivated to study.

This year, exams are particularly stressful as my only two formal exams are scheduled for the 19th and 20th of December… Literally the last two days of the exam period. W H Y. How is anyone meant to focus on Jane Austen when it’s so close to Christmas?!

Fortunately, I’ve come up with a few tips and tricks for getting myself motivated whilst all the Christmas excitement and I thought I’d share them all with you, so you guys don’t have to suffer either!

~PLAN AHEAD~

There’s nothing worse than getting caught a couple of days before your exam with nothing prepared and no sense of what you’re getting yourself into to. A few weeks before your exam, start to mentally set out a schedule or a plan for what you what you’d like to accomplish, and on what timeline. This way, you can hold yourself to studying better and not get as easily distracted from your goal.

~SET ASIDE TIME EVERY DAY~

I know how easy it is to say “it’s cool, I’ll just do some studying later this week” and how quickly that turns into “oh shit, my exam is in two days and I haven’t even looked at my notes.” Trust me. We’ve all been there. And with all the Christmas festivities to get wrapped up into at this time of the year, it’s even easier to procrastinate studying. Getting an hour or two in of studying for each subject every day is a really easy way to stay up-to-date with your revision while still getting time to do all the fun stuff. And as you get closer to your exam, start increasing your daily studying by an hour. It does wonders, honestly.

~FESTIVE ENCOURAGEMENT~

Yeah, that’s right. I’m about to tell you to bribe yourself to do work. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do, am I right? If the only way that you can get yourself to revise your History notes is by tempting yourself with a Christmas film once you’ve finished, then do it. No judgment here. Once you’ve done your studying, does it really matter how you got there? Not really. Just matters that you’ve done it. Sometimes I’ll tell myself that if I finish my revision, I’ll treat myself to a Starbucks Holiday drink. And guess what? It motivates the hell outta me.

~DAMAGE CONTROL~

If you’ve just spent the past two days decorating your house or going out to do some Christmas shopping, and you know that you’ve neglected your school work, then you’ve gotta go right back to studying. Immediately. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap! It’s so easy to get wrapped up in constantly having fun during the holidays. I know how tempting it can be, but honestly, Christmas will still be there when you’ve finished your exams.

~DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP~

This was a lesson that took me years to learn on my own so here I am, passing this onto you now: please ask for help if you need it. I always use to think that I had to figure things out on my own and suffer in silence. But taking a year off of school made me realize that that’s absolutely not the case whatsoever. There are so many people out there who are more than happy to lend a hand if you need it. If you’re feeling stressed during the holidays, talk to a friend, or a family member, or a counsellor at your school. And if you need help studying, reach out to a classmate or a friend. I’m the kind of person who usually needs to be tested on the information in order to fully understand it. If you’re that kind of person as well, don’t be afraid to ask someone to help you! Honestly, you’ll feel so much better getting that assistance that you need and it’ll drastically improve your grade overall.

What really helps you focus during the holidays?

Felicia x

To view a list of my other Blogmas posts, click here.


How To Prepare For A New School Year

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Ahh, August. The bittersweet month. Those final hazy days of summer. Am I depressing you? Sorry! Although August is a great month - it is my birthday month, after all - it is also, unfortunately, the last portion of summer holiday. Which means school is right around the corner. And although a lot of us may be squeezing our eyes shut and plugging our ears and going "la-la-la-la-la" (I know I am), it's the truth.

With school coming up, it's time to start thinking about preparing for the start of term. Getting your ducks in a row before the first day of school does wonders for your productivity when classes actually start. I'm sure you'd rather not be racing around campus, trying to figure out where your classes are whilst also tracking down your textbooks and buying school supplies. The thought is cringe-worthy haha. So, here are my tips of things to do to prepare for a new term!

GET A BINDER

When I got into university, I had this preconceived notion that binders were a 'high school thing'. There was no use buying one for university because when would I use it? It's not like you cart around loose sheets of paper from lecture-to-lecture. But the fact is, binders are useful for far more than just transportation. I like to buy a binder that I leave at my desk for holding any paper I deem important that I can't bear to lose and any marked papers that are returned to me. Oh, and by the way, professors like to throw a curveball and hand out loose papers all the time. It's nice to have someplace for those papers to go once you get home.

PRINT OUT YOUR SYLLABI

This is something I've learned to do over the years. I'm so grateful that I learned this. Picture this. You're putting the final details on your paper, the night before it's due. You can't remember if your professor likes your citations in APA or MLA format. You go online to check your syllabus and - oh wait, the site is down. Having a physical copy of your syllabus can't hurt. Pop that bad boy into a plastic page protector and put it in your binder (ah, see, I told you a binder would come in handy!). Now you can refer to it whenever you need and even make notes on the page, if need be. 

BUY A PLANNER - AND USE IT

Yes, the dreaded planner. It seems these little books are cursed for uni students. You buy one with high expectations of keeping up-to-date with marking all your assignments and exams, and it all comes crashing down about a month or even a week into classes. But I'm here to tell you that, yes, the planner does wonders! It's not an evil burden! I promise you. If you already have your syllabus, go ahead and fill in all the important dates in your planner. That way, you won't have to worry about it later. Make a vow to yourself that you will keep up with your planner. Honestly, this did me a world of good when I started university and even helped my very reluctant boyfriend last year. 

WRITE OUT YOUR CLASS TIMETABLE

There's a bunch of different ways that you can do this, or you could even use a combo of a few methods. The point is that you have a layout of it somewhere in front of you. You could write it down in your bullet journal, or put it in your planner. You could use a calendar app, like Google Calendar, which lets you colour-code your different classes. Or go old-fashioned and write it down on paper - there are a bunch of weekly schedule templates you can print off the Internet that will spruce up your timetable. Having your timetable easily accessible is super important, especially at the beginning of the new term when you're still getting used to all your new classes. I like to write out my class, the room number, the time, and the name of the professor. 

GET YOURSELF ON A ROUTINE

Summer ruins routines for everyone. It's inevitable. If you're anything like me, you probably spent your summer going to sleep at 3am and waking up at 11am. Obviously, that isn't going to work during the school year. So the couple weeks before school starts, it's a good idea to start getting yourself onto a routine. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every single day. This is so important. You don't want to keep your crappy sleep schedule right up until the day before term starts. Take my word for it. 

GO BUY YOUR SCHOOL SUPPLIES

Stationary shopping is my favourite part of the new school term. Nerd alert, right? I just find that note-making and studying is so much better if you have cute notebooks and pens to use! Honestly, I don't like to splurge too much on my school supplies, although I know a lot of people like to spend a pretty penny on their utensils and notebooks, etc. I find that I go through school supplies super fast so it's not totally worth it to spend $20+ on items that you can find for $5 elsewhere. Walmart has some incredible sales for school supplies in the weeks leading up to the school term. I always go on a huge school supply shopping spree about a month before term begins, as I'm in the US where they have really inexpensive school supplies in early August (as that's when students go back here). Maybe I'll post a school supply haul blog sometime?


That's about all for now! Hope you guys are enjoying your last bit of summer. 

What do you do to prepare for a new school year?

Felicia x

Why I Took A Break From University

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I had always heard about gap years, through old high school Facebook friends, YouTubers, and bloggers who spoke about their fabulous years off, travelling or finding themselves. It had never been something that had really crossed my mind, up until I found myself at a point where there was really no option for me other than to take a gap year myself. 

I started university in 2016, just a couple weeks after turning eighteen years old. At the time, everything seemed to be coming up roses for me. My boyfriend and I would be attending the same university, my dream school, where I would be studying Social Work, which seemed like a good idea at the time at least. My boyfriend and I would be bussing in together, which wasn't so bad because I could read (or nap) on the drive. I was learning to drive, I'd made a bunch of amazing friends, and I was loving the university. 

Everything seemed to be picture perfect. At least, it did from the outside. 

Somewhere around Christmas time during my first year, I woke up one morning and realized I hated my program. I wasn't enjoying any of the Social Sciences geared courses and I absolutely knew that I was not the kind of person who could handle the stress that came along with a job in Social Work. I suddenly realized that all this time, I'd been lying to myself. I had wanted to be an English major forever but after years of people telling me it was a bad idea, I just gave up on it and decided that I loved Social Work instead because it was what was considered a "practical" job. Good idea, right? This is what happens when you force seventeen-year-olds into choosing their futures. 

After days of talking it over with my parents and my boyfriend, and countless e-mails to academic advisors and English department heads, I was transferring into the English & Cultural Studies program. Well, technically transferring. I wouldn't be officially in the program until the spring when every first year applied for their majors. In spring, I was accepted into the English & Cultural Studies program and everything seemed to be finally settling into place. 

But it wasn't. My first year was, let's say, turbulent. Around the beginning of the second term, I realized that my anxiety was starting to get bad again. Being me, I did what seemed like the best option: hide my anxiety from my friends, family, and loved ones, and continue on with life like nothing was happening. In reality, people were starting to suspect that something was wrong - but it seemed like it was mostly a fear of moving, as we were moving house around the time that second term was finishing up. But it wasn't. Halfway through second term, I started skipping classes, for no other reason than I was petrified to walk inside. I would sit in my favourite study spot on campus and stare at my phone, counting down the minutes until a specific class or, worse, my English tutorial. Sometimes, I'd get up and walk to class, only to make it halfway and give up. But eventually, I stopped trying at all. I'd tell my boyfriend that I was busy in class, meanwhile I was really working on essays on my laptop on the opposite side of campus. 

By the very end of term, it was increasingly obvious that something was wrong. My parents went away on holiday in April, near the end of the school year, and my boyfriend came to stay with me. I would drive us to the bus stop so we could bus to school every day. But the very first day, I drove to the station and told my boyfriend I couldn't go with him. I dropped him off, went home, and got back into bed. The next day, it was the same thing. I went to exactly one class all week, for five minutes, just to pick up a graded essay. The majority of the week, I just laid in bed and watched Thirteen Reasons Why. Miraculously, my grades didn't founder. I actually finished the term with an overall cumulative average of 8.2 which was insane for someone who not only didn't go to most classes but also thought she was going to fail her Linguistics course. Honestly, things would have probably gone on just fine if that were all. Except it wasn't. I took one English course, in second term, to allow me entrance into the program. And I finished with a C+. For me, that was a death sentence. I cried for hours, despite the fact that most people I know in uni have had more than one C marks before. But it hit me hard. I sat on that all summer long and, probably, that's part of the reason why second year went so badly.

That summer, as a whole, was horrible. My anxiety had reached an all-time high and I was miserable. I never left the house, I had countless panic attacks, and most of all, I was terrified about going back to school in the fall. As September came closer, my anxiety got worse. But nevertheless, I started classes up in September, hoping for the best. Luckily, this year, I had moved closer to school and had my license, so get there was easier as I could now drive. Unluckily, I was unable to even get in the car to drive. My mum (God bless her soul) drove my boyfriend - who was now living with us - and I to school every day. I went to classes (mostly) and acted like things were better. We started looking into my school's mental health services and quickly realized that it was not going to be an easy process. But I started seeing a professional for my mental health for the first time in six years (let that sink in). And I was doing fairly well in my classes. 

Until, one day, I sat in my kitchen with my mom and boyfriend, sobbing because I just couldn't understand what my History professor wanted from an essay. There was entire booklet of instructions and none of it made sense. Every time I tried to start writing, I wrote something awful, nothing near my usual quality of writing. After spending about four hours working together with my mom, I sent in my essay. And that was the first time we seriously talked about me leaving school. But it wasn't until my mom dropped me off for an English lecture and I called her ten minutes later, sobbing, asking for her to come pick me up, that we decided it was probably necessary. I dropped out of all my classes for both terms in the middle of October, after coming home from Reading Week break in Florida. 

Taking a year off was the hardest but best thing I've ever done for myself. At first, I really hated it. I felt like I was missing out on everything, like I was being left behind while all my friends went on with their lives. I hated that I was going to still be a second year when my friends were third years. But eventually, I realized that it was necessary. And most importantly, I realized that I was putting so much unnecessary pressure on going to university, that it was becoming a chore to me. It wasn't something I enjoyed anymore. I had spent my whole life building everything up to four years and a degree on a piece of paper, that I had never really stopped to think about what I really wanted. I do want to be a student, I do want a degree - but frankly, it isn't the be all and end all of my life. I want to be a writer. I want to write books. Do I need a degree for that? No. Anyone can become a writer, if they have the passion for it. But I want a degree, for myself. I enjoy being a student; I enjoy learning and reading and hearing what other people think. Realizing that made university so much less daunting and actually exciting. 

I'm not saying that taking a year-off is a necessity for everyone or that it will magically cure your problems if you do it. But for me, it was the best decision I've ever made. And it just goes to show that frankly, you don't need to decide what to do with your life when you're seventeen, or eighteen, or even nineteen. Hell, I'm almost twenty and I'm still figuring things out. You have your whole life in front of you, and it's not worth it to spend your life stressing about doing everything the "right" way. 

Until next time!

Felicia x

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Hamilton Waterfront

Ever since I've started attending school in Hamilton, I've wanted to go and explore the area. Knowing that I'll be here for at least the four years of my undergraduate program (and hopefully another year for my graduate studies!), I have really felt like I should be connected to not only the university but also the community which surrounds it.

This past weekend, my parents, my boyfriend, and I took a trip out to Hamilton's waterfront area to explore and get to know the area better. I was completely amazed at how such a beautiful area could be such a short jaunt from where I having been taking classes every day for four weeks now. In this little nook of Lake Ontario, there is a beautiful harbour where countless boats are docked, with a few lookout points with rocky pathways lined by trees and a massive outdoor playground where dozens of kids were enjoying the day. Just a few minutes walk down the way, our trail ended up at Bayfront Park which is just this amazing luscious area where people were biking, walking their dogs, and playing sports. It was so nice to see families gathered here on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, spending the day away from hectic work schedules or homework or the tv just to spend time together.

I also absolutely loved that there is a old-fashioned trolley that goes along the waterfront, stopping periodically along the way. I'm such a sucker for that kind of thing, I pretty much talked about it for the rest of the day! haha

It is so nice to know that I'm attending university in such a wonderful, family-friendly area, one I could see myself in long after my studies are complete. Walking (and driving) around, seeing a bit of what Hamilton has to offer, really helped to reinforce the thought that I have definitely picked the perfect university for myself.

Exploring McMaster University

Happy Saturday, everybody! I'm not sure how the weather is worldwide as of today, though I do know for certain that here in Southern Ontario the weather is quite poor today. Especially in Hamilton, where I spent my morning and early afternoon.

Currently, I am just about to hit the point of my senior year where I begin applying to universities then spending the subsequent months crossing my fingers and praying to receive acceptance letters. Before I start applying, however, I thought it might be best to get an idea of what I'm getting myself into. By that I mean attending the Fall Preview for my top university choice: McMaster University.

I've been on a constant back and forth, up and down rollercoaster when it comes to my program of interest. I started with Creative Writing, then realized how unrealistic it is to become the next J.K. Rowling meanwhile having no job to support me. Then I switched over to Journalism and later changed my mind. I also went through English, History and Child & Youth Care, before settling on my current choice: Psychology. And out of every school, McMaster's Social Science faculty has reigned superior to me.

I travelled out to McMaster early this morning, with my parents, my boyfriend and his parents. Coincidently enough, McMaster is also my boyfriend's first choice, instead for him it's Life Sciences. After parking in the visitor's lot and taking a school bus - yup, a big yellow one - to the heart of campus, our day began.

We started at McMaster University Student Centre, where we met up with a lovely British woman in her fourth year at Mac who led a group of us through a 45-minute campus tour. It was absolutely pouring rain as we did the mostly outdoor tour though all we could do was grin and bear it. Despite the dreary weather, I was excited and eager to learn about the campus. She took us inside the Life Sciences building, past the construction site which will soon be home to the L.R. Wilson Hall - the new Liberal Arts/Social Sciences building - and inside one of the libraries as well as the on-campus athletic centre.

Afterwards, my parents and I left my boyfriend - who headed to one of the residency tours - and we went to Gilmour Hall for an information session on the Social Sciences faculty. Also around 45-minutes long, it was so informative and really helped me to get a better idea of what each program really can offer. I also learned of some really incredible opportunities such as the interdisciplinary programs - meaning combining different programs to create one completely unique to your own interests and career goals - and the paid internships they offer to help give you experience before you graduate.

They also spoke about a particular research program they are doing for the Social Sciences faculty which sparked my interest. Dogs at Mac is a program where the bond between humans and animals, and the canine's affect on humans during stressful situations is examined. This is done by using three trained therapy dogs - Lily, Liam, and Scout - to release tension due to coursework and exams in students. I absolutely love dogs and this program sold me on McMaster haha

Afterwards, my boyfriend was at an information session for Life Sciences so my parents and I headed to Starbucks. As you do. We ended up sitting down for about 20-minutes, chatting about the school and my program. I ultimately have decided I want to integrate Social Psychology and Social Work, to form my ideal program. Once I'd finished my White Chocolate Mocha & croissant, we went to the info booths for Social Psych and Social Work, plus the Financial Aid and I also got to meet Lily, one of the therapy dogs, who was the sweetest little thing ever.

We ended our day at the Campus Store. Wow. It's huge and full of incredible little goodies. I was in McMaster merch heaven. My boyfriend's family and mine regrouped and headed out, but not before I bought myself a super cute maroon (their school colour) McMaster t-shirt.

After today, I feel like a huge weight of uncertainty and stress about what to expect for university has been lifted. Now, I'm just super excited to get on with this part of my life and start applying!!

If anyone goes to McMaster or knows someone who goes there or just is applying to any other university, leave me a comment and let me know how it's going! Hope everyone has an incredible rest of their weekend :)

Felicia x