Sometimes, I have a pride problem when it comes to academics.
This means that I don’t really enjoy seeking help when I’m having a hard time. If you read my last blog post, you would understand that I tend to let myself sink deeper and deeper (I’m working on it, trust me) into a hole. I guess it was instilled in me as a kid; my stereotypical Asian tiger mom putting pressure on me to succeed and be a academic role model to other students. I know, a little pretentious, but it was one of the reasons why I hated asking for help. If I didn’t know the answer, that meant that I wasn’t the best and if I wasn’t the best, I needed to be.
Luckily, I partially grew out of that when I bombed my grade 10 science exam (I still remember — I got a 69%, so catastrophic to me). I would further discover the subjects I liked to learn and actually work in and do well in those. The problem is, that pride thing? It kept following me around. And everyone knows university is where your pride can be one of your biggest fatal flaws, especially when you don’t understand something.
Other family issues aside, this exam season has begun rockily for me. After recovering from my downward slope the past few weeks, I realized that a) I hadn’t attended many lectures b) The readings had piled up c) My first exam was in 3 days d) I was completely and utterly ill-prepared for it e) And if I failed this exam I might as well pack up my things and move to some unknown circus and have that be my reality for the rest of my life (this may be a little hyperbole).
It was an exam for one of my favourite courses related to my major, and so I felt like I knew all the concepts and could understand all the readings by myself. I holed myself up in a library, then a cafe, then my room. 1 day gone and I was still absolutely confused and filled with a sense of dread. Maybe I should start packing my things… I thought to myself.
And then heaven in the form of a Facebook group popped up on my notifications.
In a Facebook group I’m a part of for the aforementioned course, a friend of mine had posted 3 sets of files. These files were the Holy Grail; they were her exam notes on the lectures, readings, and concepts and, most importantly, they were all free. She intended (explicitly, if I might add) them to be used by her fellow classmates who needed help preparing for the test. All her notes were clear, succinct, and ten times better than my measly attempt. My first reaction was I don’t need these! I can do this myself… but eventually I started turning to them and actively studying off them. I swallowed my pride, used her glorious notes, and then entered the exam.
And the exam went well. I approached her a day later and told her how much her notes saved my life and that I was incredibly grateful that she posted them.
What I’m trying to say is not to be afraid of asking for help. There is this misconception that all U of T students are cold, callous, and competitive — in it for themselves. And while that might be true for some students, the majority of us are here for each other while we also struggle together. You never know what someone is going through during these stressful times, and posting your notes is a gesture that is one of the kindest things you can do. I’m not saying you have to do it, but if you do, just know that it’s going to help a lot of people.
The spirit of giving this season doesn’t just have to manifest in nicely wrapped gifts — exam notes are a pretty good way, too.
Cheers, good luck, and I’ll see you next semester! Happy Holidays!