Dealing with stress and cold weather – final survival guide

It is mid-November and some of us still have their second mid-terms of this semester. Now it’s getting dark before 5 pm, and we wrap ourselves like tortilla. Since our semester is only less than 4 months long, the finals are actually around the corner.

Undegrads usually have 4 to 5 courses per semester, and we are drowning in deadlines throughout the semester. It seems that we don’t have a lot of time to prepare for the finals, so I want to share with everyone how I managed to obtain decent grades for 6 courses in one semester.

I was in Biochemistry major back then, and the curriculum was more or less set up for us. The most scary course for me was BIOL 200, which involves gigantic amount of memorizing. I was also quite bad at physiology courses, which as well needs a good memory.

For me, one habit that I have kept for years is that I always try to organize my stuff. Knowledge in one course can be arranged in different ways. Since I am a visual person, I like to write a home-made summary with colorful highlights and schemes. In fact, each mid-term is a good opportunity to make a small sub-summary of the knowledge you have learned for the past few weeks, and your life will be much easier if you get prepared from the beginning of the semester. I’m very sad that I really had a hard time remembering all the details of my body, both on molecular level and physiological level, but at least I know what I need to answer when I look at the questions.

It is also very helpful if you know how to take notes. It’s impossible to write down every sentence the professor has said, and it is not very efficient to listen to the recordings (if there’s any) for five times just to transcribe everything. What I used to do is to attend classes and focus as much as possible during the lecture to highlight key points. Before exams, I go back to my notes and grab the key concepts for each lecture. If I get confused, I will go to the textbook or internet for consultation (or professors during their office hours). By doing so, a map of keywords with annotated details can be developed.

The finals are held usually in wind chill and snow, and since the daylight becomes more and more precious, we need to keep an eye on our psychological state. Stress can be devastating and can erase all the knowledge in your head during the final. Learning how to deal with this devil is essential for our fast-paced university life. Everyone has their own ways to relax – going to the gym, listening to music, watching movies, talking to friends and families, going out to get some drink, etc. Don’t let the final schedule beat you up, because your health is the most important. At McGill, we do have mental health service and therapy dog sessions when finals come closer, so if you feel like you cannot handle your stress any more, don’t be shy to ask for help. If you need more info about psychological service and assistance, please see here:

Last but not least, you can get yourself comfy with a final survival kit – good marshmallows with hot chocolate, soft throws, a playlist of your favorite artists, reading socks, best pens and nice paper, to name a few. Winter is here, but we can always find some light during the long night.

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