Taekman: Increase your academic enthusiasm

Ah, summertime.                                                                            

Three months of making money, maybe sneaking in some research or a summer class—but mostly just relaxation. No classwork avalanches, no whirlwind of deadlines; you’re calling the shots on how you’re spending your time, and it’s pretty liberating.

And just as you settle in, just as you get used to making your own day—get off the couch and pack your bags, it’s time to go back to school.

On one hand, it’s exciting: You get to see your friends. You get to learn new information. You get to go on new adventures, see new sights.

But on the other hand your academics have now cranked back into full gear, after three months of basically nothing. You have to drag yourself from academic inactivity to academic overdrive.

And getting back into that learning mentality? That seems nearly impossible.

How could you have ever sat in a lecture hall for an hour and a half when you could be exploring free museums or walking down Euclid Street? How could you have holed yourself in your room for six hours to write an essay when you could be eating in Little Italy or seeing a concert downtown? If you’re anything like me, you’re surprised you can even still read—let alone write.

So how do we brace ourselves for all the work to come? How can we avoid flopping at the start the semester?

Unfortunately, there’s not really a universal way to up your academic enthusiasm.

Some people can jump immediately back into it, while others have to endure a couple of bad assignment grades before they shape up. Your friend might be able to go straight into writing a massive physics lab report on top of drafting a ten page SAGES essay, while you might simply look up some references and then need a two hour nap.

Regardless, putting all that work into basically anything seems over the top after this period of relative lethargy.

This may seem corny, but the best way to make all that work bearable is to get yourself excited for your classes—or for whatever you’re learning in them, at least. If it’s a class pertinent to your major, that should be easy. But how do you get excited for that math class that you’re only taking because your major requires it? How do you pump yourself up for all the reading you’ll have to do in a SAGES class that has nothing to do with your interests?

It sounds like a lot of work, but take it another step and make it relevant to your interests. Consider looking at some of the class material before classes even start. And no, that doesn’t have to mean looking directly in your textbook.

Find things relevant to your class subject in the news or on the Internet. A podcast, a study, a piece of fiction, anything that might spark your interest and get you ready to learn more will work. Maybe the math you’re about to learn was just used to relate one physics property to another. Maybe scientists just conducted a new study and found data contradicting an old-as-time rule of biology. Maybe a new, unfinished work by a classic author was just unearthed.

Find things relevant to your class subject in the news or on the Internet. Find a podcast, a study, a piece of fiction, anything that might spark your interest and get you ready to learn more.

Researchers wrote an algorithm that can predict when people will get bored with your favorite game on your phone. Scientists found the markers that allow plants to turn their genes “on and off”; if we pursue the study further, we might be able to make more drought-resistant crops in the future without drastically modifying their genetic code. A possible Jackson Pollock painting worth $15 million dollars was just found in a retired man’s garage in Arizona.

Chances are, the classes you’re taking wouldn’t exist if they weren’t still relevant somehow today. Figure out how and why they matter—and maybe you’ll even learn a little of the material early, as a bonus.

(And let’s face it: it feels good to walk into class and already know some of the big, fancy terms your professor is throwing at you.)

But what if you’re a hard case and none of the above worked?

Just get organized. Scribble stuff in your planner, order your notebooks, print your syllabi. At least the illusion of productivity will semi-prepare you for the real thing.

Yes, it can seem daunting getting back on the academic swing. But it’s up to you to get yourself back into it, regardless of how badly you don’t want to put in effort.

And work tends to be a lot less painful when you’re interested in what you’re learning.

Sarah Taekman is a second-year studying Origins.