The week before Fall Break and the week after Homecoming, midterm week was when students across campus tested their knowledge and skills in multiple classes. A good chunk are sleep-deprived from pulling all-nighters. A few are wide awake and studied well beforehand. Most are nervous, stressed and tired.
As a first-year student, I was able to see all of this for the first time and experienced multiple overwhelming feelings during midterm week.
Fear was the first emotion I felt.
I was scared for the types of questions that my professors might ask. I was scared that I wouldn’t study effectively enough. I was scared of failing and disappointing my family. College is a big transition from high school in terms of expectations and work ethic, and I did not feel the same pressure for high school exams. If I failed an exam in high school, it didn’t matter much.
But now, I feel like the world is watching me and expecting me to do well in everything that I do. If I fail an exam in college, I worry because money is involved now. Case Western Reserve University is an expensive school, and I don’t want to disappoint my family who has given up a lot for me to be here.
However, this fear was still a learning experience. It taught me that I shouldn’t worry so much about midterms, that I should take take care of myself and that I can’t always be perfect. I was blind to what fear was doing to me. Countless scenarios went through my head of what would happen if I failed. Looking back at it, I should’ve taken care of myself more.
The second strong emotion I felt was stress.
I removed mostly everything from my life that didn’t involve school. I did not watch any YouTube videos like I usually do; I did not stop for a coffee break or to check up on myself. This was a mistake. I noticed a change in my mood and overall performance in class. I was more tired and unresponsive, and I did not grasp new material well. During my exams, I could not do well on material that I usually excel on and made mistakes that I normally wouldn’t have made.
All of it taught me that I need to find ways to distract myself while I study. I can’t push away everything in sacrifice for an exam. Doing so only made the stress worse. If I had just distracted myself for a bit while I studied, I most likely would have performed better in my exams.
These new strategies that I’ve acquired through reflection will be useful when I take my first finals. Other first-year students in my shoes should apply these strategies as well. College is a different setting. We can’t get too comfortable with our past methods; we need to adjust to our new environment quickly before we dig too deep of a hole.
Fear and stress managed to dominate my mind all week. It may have been only midterms, but they are still a big change from high school. I know that I am not the only first-year student who feels this way. It is tough to adjust being so far away from home, but we can’t give up. Even if we don’t perform as well as we used to, we are trying our best and should be proud of ourselves. We were all admitted because the university saw potential in every single one of us.
It is up to us to reach that potential, but it can only be achieved if we take care of ourselves first. If we don’t start to learn to take care of ourselves now, we will suffer even more during our next exams.
Christian Reyna is a first-year biomedical engineering major who is also planning on obtaining a Spanish minor. He absolutely loves dogs and probably procrastinated in writing this article.