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Year One: Parting advice from a senior

By Aymen Sherwani, September 2 2021—

Use an Online Planner: 

It’s the middle of the semester and you’re knee-deep in back-to-back midterms, quizzes, lab write-ups or research paper deadlines. At this point in time, you can’t tell when anything is due with exact clarity, and flipping through those course outline print-outs only seems to overwhelm you more.

What you need to do as soon as the semester starts is make a spreadsheet of all of your deadlines in chronological order on a planner app like Notion, Google Calendar or even your Apple Notes and Reminders apps. That way, you can dedicate your time and energy to what needs to be prioritized the most, and also set up notifications for when things are about to be due so you aren’t scrambling to finish something the day that it’s due.  

Find Your Study Zone:

Whatever you do, don’t go to the TFDL to study, unless you’re working on a group project — studying anywhere below the fourth floor will guarantee you anything but a good letter grade in the class. The fifth and sixth floors are great options to do some quiet, independent studying — that is if you’re lucky enough to find a spot. Instead, take the time to understand which studying environment allows you to truly thrive.

If you’re like me and your eyes get easily distracted, or noise overstimulates you to the point where the words you’re reading aren’t even registering anymore, opt for lesser-known spaces like the Doucette Library, Law Library, or even a classroom you know will be empty at a certain time during the day. Wherever it may be, find your “spot” and stick to it for the rest of your undergraduate degree. 

Take Care of Yourself: 

Don’t be the person that hasn’t showered in two weeks, brags about pulling all-nighters and is constantly having those awful caffeine crashes throughout the day. Your school life may be a mess, but that doesn’t mean you have to be. Take some time to create some consistency within your day, whether that be having a solid skincare routine, making sure to sleep well every night or pushing yourself to eat more healthy.

The smallest things can make the biggest difference in how motivated and mentally healthy you are throughout the semester. For me, that looks like compartmentalizing my time at work, school, with friends and at home. That means spending Monday to Friday regularly at school followed by work or studying, but when the weekend comes around I take the time to completely unplug and to do something I love. The promise of a reward at the end of my routine keeps me motivated to stay on track with work and school throughout the week. 

Befriend Your Professors: 

Contrary to what your high school teachers may have told you, your professors are not draconian overlords that are going to skin you alive in front of your 400-person lecture if you ask a stupid question. We all struggle in our first year at university and professors know this. Sure, there are some that try to scare you into thinking that you’re not meant to be in the program that you’re in, but for the most part, professors want you to talk to them. They didn’t spend decades researching in their fields just to speak at 400 nameless students in a lecture hall.

Take the time to go to their office hours and talk to your professors about the course, any questions you have or where you may be struggling. You may find that they’ll be a lot more understanding of you and your situation as a stressed out first-year once they get to know you. Plus, it’s always nice to get a wave back when you walk past them in the hall. 

Year One is a column about the first-year experience at the University of Calgary.  This column is part of our Voices section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.

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