Balance, Classes, Down time, General, Study, Work

Figuring out what works best for me.

Hi, I’m Sydney. I’m this year’s First-year Blogger, and my favourite movie is Good Will Hunting. I -like many others- am still deciding what I want to study. Mainly because I’m really passionate about one thing: people, but I have three ways I use to understand them: literature, psychology, and sociology.

I’m hoping this year I can decide which field I fit best into, and so far I love all my courses; so I’ve got my work cut out for me. Other than the general privilege of secondary education and spending time in the heart of the city, I’m also excited to meet and become familiar with an incredibly diverse population of students here at University of Toronto.

Starting out this year, my most predominant goal was to join clubs, participate in movements, attend school events and submerge myself fully in life at U of T. During the Frosh parade, I was so hyped I lost my voice cheering- I wrote my email on a lot of sign-up sheets that week. I felt terrified, exhausted, and on top of the world.

Then classes began, and suddenly my email account had to wait.

Because movies and popular media make University seem like the epitome of a social Disneyland, where work comes second and no one ever calls their mom crying because they forgot they had an entire autobiography to read by Monday- I assumed it would be easy to balance social life and academic life. I assumed (and you know the old proverb) that because all the studying happened off camera, that it was the type of thing done without breaks, in one sitting, super fast. The allusion broke when, on Friday, I read my American Lit syllabus.

I figured the best way to begin balancing my workload with seeing friends and getting involved was to tackle the most difficult aspect first; homework.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve realized that there are many different approaches to succeeding academically. The most productive lesson I’ve learned so far this semester is the importance of finding which way works best for me. For example: my essays take a lot of writing and rewriting before I settle on a rough draft (if you struggle like I do, there are also writing centres full of helpful people who you can consult. ) . I also discovered that I need some kind of subtle noise (instrumental music, a fan, rain sounds) in the background to help me focus.

Pictured is an open notebook, face up, littered in bold black lettering and highlighted frequently in yellow and green. Beside said notebook are two writing utensils; a black pen and a pink highlighter.

For my notes to be most useful to me, they need to be written out in dark pen with lots of highlighting.

At first it was frustrating- I underestimated how long an assignment would take me and I had to reschedule or cancel plans with friends- and I’m still learning, but I feel as though allowing myself to shift and change approaches is slowly moving me toward a more collected and stress-free first year. I also learned that a good way to find better studying techniques to try out is to ask a friend- that’s how I discovered the magic of frequent breaks during a dense reading. And yes, I did finish Ben Franklin’s autobiography in time!

What kind of student are you?