Gaze upon our newfound glory! Truly we are a gorgeous beast now. The new design is the work of Shawn Dickinson who, in addition to being awesome with web design, will be taking over for me as editor in chief (and writer) at the end of April, when I will frolic off to other pastures. I won’t say much about him, in order to preserve his mystique, but his work should speak for itself.
Anyway, it’s time to talk about stress again, and what you can do. We’ve strayed from it for a bit, but it’s worth talking about. Last time, I talked about what counselling services can do for you. This time, the focus is on your classmates. A burden shared is a burden lifted, after all. Here are just a couple of ways you can help support other students and be supported in turn.
The biggest thing on most students’ minds is how you’re going to survive your courses. It’s a lot of work and can be really stressful, but one of the best ways to stay afloat can be to get together with students in your classes. Talk about the assignments, study for exams together, and complain about class. Every one of them has at least some appreciation of your experience, and you of theirs. Classics students are lucky in this regard, because we have both a lounge and a reading room for people to get together and work in, so you don’t have to find a classroom to use or convince your roommates to clean up so you can meet in the dining room without enduring the scent of corpses and Cheetos. Proofread each other’s papers, bounce arguments and ideas off of one and other, and critique each other’s ideas for the essay question on the final, and you’ll probably find your grades going up, your stress going down, and you might even accidentally have a little fun. How do you form on? Try the Classics and Medieval Society Facebook Group, or handpick them from your class like you’re forming a special ops team. Or something.
To those of you who are lone wolves (and I know the song well, I was one too), who insist that studying in a group doesn’t work for you, that’s fine. But do it anyway. Study groups aren’t just for studying. Get together every week or so, and embrace the idea that there are some people who are worried about the same things you are, and others who aren’t worried, because they’ve got that part of the course down cold, but can’t remember all the cases in Latin. Study on your own if that’s what works for you, but don’t let that be the reason you don’t go to a study group.
It’s a great way to meet other students, not just from Classics, but from all over campus. Going to an event can let you have some fun and relax, or it can help you sharpen your skills for class. Every department is different. CMS does trivia and movie nights, while the Philosophy Student Society gets together once a week and argues about something. Go to a lecture, a sporting event, or just hit the Bomber with some people for Trivia night. It’s true that you’ll lose time working on whatever assignment it is that you’re supposed to be working on. But after a while, those hours start to have diminishing returns. Consider it a break, and come back refreshed. Joining a club, society, or sports team will help you get away from your books and budget your time. If you think “I have to be at X club”, then you know you have to get Y amount of work done before you go. Opportunities for this kind of stuff will fade over time, but that work will always be there, trust me.
Study groups and being involved make this one a lot easier. But seriously, make friends. If you’re coming from high school, this is the first time you’re in an educational and social setting with people who are interested in the same stuff as you, instead of just being the same age as you. Take advantage of that by getting to know a lot of people. Find out what draws you to people, and take some risks. Some of them you’ll leave behind after you graduate, or you’ll grow apart. But some of them, maybe the ones you least expect, you’ll be stuck with for life. Friends can sometimes make your life harder, but more often than not they’ll make it easier. I’m not here to teach you how to make friends, just to say that it’s good to make it a priority.
All of this really boils down to one thing: you’re not alone. Undergrad, grad student, or professor, your work can leave you feeling isolated, and the weight of the expectations not just of your deadlines but that you have of yourself, can really grind you down. But you’re not alone, you’re part of a community of people who are dealing with the same kinds of issues from one angle or another. If you reach out to this community, everybody wins. We all get by with a little help from our friends.
Jim Tigwell would be absolutely nowhere without all the amazing people in his life. He’ll never get to the point where he doesn’t need them, sometimes to help with things, and sometimes just to listen late at night.