December stresses me out!

Photo by @aliisonw // Instagram @gradlifemcgill

Photo by @aliisonw // Instagram @gradlifemcgill

It’s officially mid-December and you know what that means. Snow, slush and exams! It’s the time of year where every coffee shop in a 20 minute radius of campus is full of undergrads and graduate students alike studying hard for exams. Personally, I’m in my last years of a project-based degree, so I finished my course work some years ago and I do not miss it one bit. The sleepless nights, the stress eating, and the caffeine-induced eye twitches are mostly issues of the past for me, but I feel for all of you out there currently in the middle of exam season. It is not fun, but hopefully it will be over for you soon.

Now while I don’t exactly have exams to manically cram for, this time of year brings my own special brand of stress, my annual committee meeting. Now I know not all the departments are the same, but as a Biochemistry graduate student you have to assemble a committee of professors (at least 2 plus your supervisor) that you meet with at least once a year to make sure your work is on track. Unfortunately mine has been pushed all the way to the end of this year.  All things considered, I prefer this annual evaluation to any exam I’ve written but it is still incredibly stressful. Basically it’s a presentation where I show all the work I’ve done over the years and I’m questioned on what I know, what I think and what I want to do next.

At the beginning of my degree I was always worried I wouldn’t have the answers to the questions. I would read paper after paper on top of the surprising amount of time it takes to assemble all my work into a presentation. I also worried about the quantity of my work. We all have weeks (or months) where experiments just don’t work or where other aspects of grad life gets in the way of the experiments. The eye twitches and insomnia would return, but in the end it was always okay. For me at least, it always ends up being more of a discussion than an examination and my committee always has helpful suggestions on areas where I am getting stuck. Even the process of putting everything together is helpful in itself, giving me a chance to see what I’ve done and have it spark new ideas. That being said, I’m still stressed about my upcoming meeting. I am still binge reading as much as I can and making unrealistic lists of experiments to complete before next Monday (!), but in the end I hope it’ll still be okay.

So to all of you out there that are stressing out this time of year, whether it be over exams, experiments or simply the number of holiday parties you have to attend (I have 6 in 2 weeks!), I wish you the best of luck. We can do it!

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