Hello, friends! I’m glad you decided to join me again here at The NEW!

Ah, midterm season. What a wonderful time to be a university student! If you’re feeling nervous, just follow these foolproof instructions:

First, take a deep breath.

Then immediately begin to panic because you have a mountain of essays due in five days, but that’s clearly no big deal, right? You’re just gonna be spending a few dozen hours typing away trying to figure out what it is you’re trying to prove. Yeah, it’ll be fine. Oh, but don’t forget the wall of tests coming up that you haven’t studied for and will probably make you have to deal with nonsensical questions such as using the volume of your nearest orange to determine the mass of the sun. Add to that a barrage of group projects which you’re too nervous to reach out to people to form groups for because you don’t know anyone, and you still have piano class on Thursday.

Of course, that’s just an example off the top of my head. What, does it sound familiar to you?

Not to me. Because I quit piano.

That aside, I hope you’ve all been doing okay recently. I know that quarantine has been rather tough for many people, and I think it’s safe to assume that a number of you are (secretly) freaking out about how this school year is going to go, since just about everything has gone virtual and midterms have now descended upon us.

But if you’re worried out of your mind, then let me be the first to say “welcome to the club, amigo!”

Spongebob sings Welcome Squidward

“Welcome to our club, welcome our club, welcome our club, welcome our club…” – My brain. Image via Giphy.

Of course, nobody would come out and admit that they’re worried about midterms—not on the internet anyways. No, we’d keep that to ourselves. Only a fool would come out and admit that he’s freaking out internally.

Guess that makes me a fool.

Well, not really. I see it as my job as a student blogger to be addressing this kind of issue, so I’m going to take advantage of my current position and complai—err…”openly discuss” some of the things that I feel are on our minds as of late but that we may not want to admit to worrying about. And then try to reassure you that these things are not as big as they seem.

One of the biggest worries for me—a mildly introverted gamer and writer—is the idea of trying to make friends during university.

Admittedly, I was terrified of the aspect of starting university because very few people I knew from high school ended up coming to U of T (incidentally, they all went to Waterloo…oof). So this year, I resolved to actively speak to people when I encountered them, even if it was just while I was standing in line at the cafeteria. That was going to be my plan! My flawless plan!

And then, Zoom—I mean COVID-19—had to barge in and ruin everything.

Things don't always go like we planned

Foiled again. Dang it. Image via Giphy.

Now, don’t get me wrong, interacting with people over the internet is in many ways easier. You don’t have to meet face to face, and you can send a message over Discord (what is this “social media” you speak of?) whenever you want. It’s like an introvert’s dream! Except you first need to meet people in order to have people to send messages to in the first place, and now you’re constantly worried about your parents coming in and embarrassing you in the middle of a call.

Just perfect.

But in all seriousness, while I haven’t yet had as many chances to interact with the New College community as I’d like, the people I’ve met here have been very friendly and welcoming. I think that’s part of what makes our college special, in fact.

So if I can encourage any of you—be it a fellow first-year who is nervous about meeting people, a second-year who wants to start getting involved with the community, the list goes on—to do anything, it’d be to take part in some (virtual) events that U of T and New College are hosting. It’s a great way to meet some awesome people. And from personal experience, if you’re a first-year, try reaching out to your peer leader (quick shoutout to my peer leader, Richard Peng, because he really helped me out during course selection a few months back).

Next, let’s talk about stressing about the future. Yes, the eternal question of what I’ll be doing in the next five minutes.

I know this is a pretty common thing to worry about, but I can tell you that’s the case for a reason. Even coming into university, I was unsure of whether or not a commerce major was right for me (fun fact: I’m still not totally sure).

Now I can hear one of my (really optimistic) friends saying “but you should be looking forward to the future!” in the background, but in times of uncertainty like these, I can’t help but wonder about where my next steps will take me.

I wanna go home. I hate this.

“Um…you are at home.” Image via Giphy.

What I’ve found has helped is learning to see the cup as half full rather than half empty, so to speak. Everything has an upside and a downside to it.

So focus on the upside. Can’t go to the mall? It’s a great time to enjoy some online shopping. Dropped your phone in the toilet and need a replacement? Well…uh…think of it as a chance to get a new phone! Forgot to hand in a project on Quercus?

Ummm…hold on, I’ll be back in a minute. I gotta go hand a project in.

Will I be able to keep up with work?

Okay, I know, I know, it seems kind of early to be complaining about work when it’s only a month and a half into the school year, but to be fair, as I’m writing this it’s midterms week and I have a test coming up in a few days that I haven’t quite gotten around to studying for.

So once again, clearly I’m a responsible student.

I mean, high school and university workloads are completely different. And while I’d like to think that my own time management skills are…passable(?) it’s inevitable that people will end up feeling overwhelmed, and doubly so for someone who’s going through all of this during quarantine.

We all have moments now and then where we feel like there’s way too much for us to do. The key is having your own solution to the issue! Image by Andrew Neel via Unsplash.

But on that note, there are a few things that I want to say about this one. First of all, everyone has their own methods of organizing themselves to minimize the number of sleepless nights they have (i.e. having a strict agenda, taking a healthy amount of breaks, playing eight consecutive hours of Among Us, spreading studying out over a long period of time), but some methods are more effective than others. It’s important to find a method that works for you. But be adaptable, and you’ll save yourself a lot of stress.

So what have I been doing to calm the terrified thoughts inside my head? Well, a few things. I set a schedule and (try) to do everything a day in advance so that I’m already ready in case something pops up at the last minute. I also give myself ample time to rest. Sit back, relax, watch a show or play a game. It helps more than you might think.

And most importantly of all, remember that there are many different resources available to you in case you need help. U of T provides a number of services to help students who are struggling with stress, such as the My Student Support Program, and there are many groups out there dedicated to supporting you in your education, including peer-run groups like the recognized study groups (RSGs). You can also find a list of mental health resources here. Please know that there are people who are here to support you and want to see you succeed!

If any upper-year students are reading this, I’d love it if you’d spare a minute or two to share some of your tips for coping with the workload in the comments down below. It’d really help me, and I’m sure many other students would also appreciate the insight!

You still here?

If so, great! You’ve made it to the end of this week’s post. I honestly hope that I helped calm your nerves a little bit, and if nothing else, showed that you’re not the only one worried about the school year.

Keep your chin up! I believe in you! Image by David Monje via Unsplash.

Please be sure to take care of yourself. And remember, if you feel like you need someone to talk to, hit me up. I love a good chat.

Until next time, friends,

~ Jimmy