It’s officially been a month since the start of lectures and, boy, can I feel the difference. Staring multiple deadlines in the face, I find myself almost longing for the weeks gone by in which our Euro 100 quizzes on Canvas were anxiety-inducing. The Engineers (the dominant group on my floor) have had their first test and are mourning their educational careers, and it’d be generous to say I’d spent an hour with any Biomed student since last week. But it’s not solely scientists feeling the heat, as you may have guessed from my video/forlorn opening sentences. Nope, the arts (and law!) kids are in the furnace, too.
Next week, I’m turning in my first actual university assignment and sitting my first actual university test. If you hadn’t already guessed, I’m kind of terrified. As fears go, The Unknown And Uncontrollable is up there. And unfortunately, since I’m so new to them, university assessments are definitely Unknown And Uncontrollable.
University always leaves you feeling a little bit like you’re not sure what the lecturers want, especially straight out of high school. Realistically, this is just because you’re being allowed to broaden your intellectual horizons and approach topics in your own way… which is pretty much the exact opposite of what you’ve been doing for the past however-many-years.
In my experience, university subjects feel more akin to Scholarship level exams, for those of you familiar with NCEA – but don’t let that freak you out! It’s all about approaching the task at hand and putting your best foot forward: you can always email your lecturers and tutors, or go and see them during their office hours. I haven’t been to an office hour yet, but I’ve emailed my Art History tutor with questions – it takes next to no time and can get so many things clarified. It’s always better to ask the question, rather than hold it back and be bitten in the butt later for not having sent a quick email.
There’s also usually a lot of description given about the logistical side of assessments, so you’ll know about formatting and how to submit and things like that – it’s just filling up the content that can be a bit nerve-wracking. A friend of mine in second year has said that, for the first few assignments, you feel absolutely wrecked and have no idea what lecturers need or expect from you, but you’ll also be surprised where your best marks come from. She didn’t try particular hard on an assignment and pulled out an A. Of course, it’s all relative, but maybe that’s a sign not to stress. (Which I kind of think I needed to remind myself of.)
Stress is a part of life that comes and goes and which no one wants, but without which nothing would change. Not gonna lie, I absolutely hate feeling the way I have the past few days – having a shadow of dread stalking you like your own personal Phantom of the Opera is never ideal – but it’s also forcing me to make good on what I said in my blog two weeks ago.
It’s forcing me to prioritise, get tasks done, and follow things through. The pictures above, for example, were taken at the ASB Waterfront Theatre, where the show I’m stage managing is being performed in two weeks (after I’ve survived the end of my assessments!). It’s a promenade piece, which means the audience is moving around and there’s not just one conventional stage for me to manage; I have to be everywhere, essentially. A fly on every wall. I feel a little like an air traffic controller at some points, but it’s also such an innovative show that I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. You have to be absolutely on the ball, which is why I’m – in a twisted way – glad I’m learning all these lessons now.
What I’ve discovered more than anything over the past couple of weeks is that life at university really is shaped by the attitude of each individual. I keep having to circle back and remind myself that I’m stressed because I care, and I’m stressed because I want the best for myself. I’m stressed because this means a lot to me. I’m stressed because I don’t want to mess up something I’ve been looking forward to my entire life.
And you know what? It’s going to be awful, for a time. But I’m going to work through that. I’m going to struggle and persevere and probably miss out on some sleep or some socialising. But then the stress will be gone. It’ll be gone, and it’ll be glorious.