It is the beginning of a new school year and whether you’re just starting your undergraduate career at Case Western Reserve University or coming back to finish a degree, you have most likely just spent the last three months away from school. These months might have been filled with graduation parties, working or simply being a couch potato with little to no schoolwork or activities. The beginning of the fall semester can be the hardest because of this long break. Getting back into the grind of studying is difficult, but fear not: If you pace yourself this first week of classes, you can avoid the anxiety and stress of the dreaded syllabus day.
In the first few days of classes, many professors hand out the syllabus and go over it. Although it is good to know what you will be doing the whole semester and important for big project due dates, it can also be daunting. Looking at the whole syllabus week by week, each topic you will learn, each homework assignment and the grading rubric can be scary, especially when you see them for multiple classes. But not all of this information is important on the first day of class, or even the first week. Take the first week slowly, day by day, and ease back into the semester. Don’t be too overwhelmed by reading the entire syllabus, just focus on the important things for the first week, like getting the required books you will need and showing up to class in the first place.
Remember to take time for yourself this week. This is true throughout the semester as well, and it is important to get into the habit at the beginning of the semester. Studying is important, but it is also important to take breaks. So make sure in this first week to not focus solely on classes and school work. Schedule a lunch with friends you haven’t seen all summer, or go out for an ice cream break at Mitchell’s with the people you just moved in with and get to know them. This can help ease the transition from relaxing all summer to being overwhelmed with all of the work that is about to start.
Another way to beat the stress of the oncoming semester is to enjoy the weather. We live in Cleveland and those of us who have been here for a while and are returning know how cold and snowy the winters can get. The fall semester has the best weather, and CWRU is beautiful outside throughout the fall. Right now, it is still summer and is hot outside, which might make you want to stay inside air conditioned buildings. But soon enough it will be November, and it will be rainy and cold outside. Or it could get cold next week, since it is Cleveland and the weather is unpredictable. Either way, enjoy the days that are warm by going outside instead of staying inside.
A good way to get some sunshine is to do schoolwork outside. Read outside instead of in the library or try to do homework on the wet dry fountain outside of Guilford House. There are plenty of quiet spots on campus to focus on work while still getting some sunshine, such as all of the grass on the quad or the benches and tables. Working outside is one of my favorite ways to relax and not get overwhelmed with all of the things that I have to do while still being productive. Even just eating your lunch outside in the warm weather can help brighten your day and make this first week more enjoyable and less stressful.
Even though your schedule might be packed tight with back-to-back classes, try to not rush through them. While walking across campus to get to your next class, remember to breathe. Don’t make your schedule so packed that you always feel like you are in a rush, because then you miss out on the small things in life. As Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
As someone that recently graduated from CWRU, I know that at times it seems like graduation is so far away and that you are drowning in schoolwork. But despite the cliché, before you know it you will have your degree and will be missing the small things about your time in school. So take some time this week to relax and get acquainted, or reacquainted, with CWRU. The first week can be one of the most stressful times of the semester, but it doesn’t have to be if you can take it one day at a time and take some breaks for yourself.
Abby Assmus is a student and the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences and hopes that everyone at CWRU has a good first week back.