Midterm season

Bucktown 5K (blog)

Looking pretty swell after our run.

♪♫♪ I’m an atom in a sea of nothing / Looking for another to combine…

It’s always been a funny thing for me to see my course syllabi loosely interpret the word “midterm.” Don’t let the Latin prefix fool you — one of the first things I learned as a UIC student is that midterms rarely (if ever) occur at the middle of the term, nor is there only one midterm for the semester. Nope, in fact, you can have midterms even up to three times throughout one academic term.
And then inevitably there’s that confusion during my phone calls with my parents when I have to explain to them that yes, it was midterm week two weeks ago, but there’s another midterm week coming up right around the corner, and then another round coming up after that…

Yep, in the UIC world, as far as my classes have been concerned anyway, “midterm” has basically become synonymous with exam. What does that mean to students? Don’t hold your breath for a grace period between the middle of the semester and the final exam, because your syllabus tells all, and clearly it says that you can have midterms no less than three times this semester.
And of course, each class operates independently of each other, so there is a good chance that “midterm week” extends through the span of several weeks depending on when the exams are scheduled for each particular course. What for some universities is just known colloquially as midterm week for the semester can quickly escalate into an entire midterm season.

Although it may seem devastating to have no real “recovery period” between exams every week, that’s actually not too bad. I’ve been in that tight spot before in past semesters, and I actually prefer it because it means I have time to target my focus on one subject and specifically tackle it in preparation for its exam (while trying to stay afloat in all the other classes too of course). Even though it can feel exhausting to go week to week with exams one after the other with little lull, I still believe that’s easier than the counterpart, which is all of your “midterms” back to back in the span of just a couple days (because let’s save that bundle for fun for finals week, okay?). But of course things never work out quite like we hope…

Here’s a peek inside my head for the past week: one midterm/exam every day, four school days in a row (with some quizzes sprinkled in between) – basically I’m reduced to a bundle of nerves in two nightmarish weeks as I frantically try to divide my time accordingly so that each class I’m taking has some adequate amount of preparation (hopefully). The brunt of my focus lies on Physics II and Organic Chemistry II just because of the sheer amount of material there is to understand, memorize, and practice. I’m trying to still make time for other classes and commitments though, but it’s difficult when everything seems to come at once.

Although I usually have the luck of enduring a midterm season throughout the semester, it seems with my luck this time that I actually will experience a midterm week—or a mini-finals week, as I’m thinking about it. Of course I’m only cramming about four weeks of material for each class right now for the exams, but it’s still no cakewalk. I’m working really hard in order to start off the semester on the right foot. As I’ve learned the hard way before, if the beginning of the semester isn’t started strong, the rest of it is spent desperately trying to claw my way back up. Doable, but so so difficult and stressful.

Aside from the start of my midterm season, I’ve also been so busy that it’s been a trial even carving out time to sleep, eat, and work out. I’m afraid that my marathon training has taken a back seat to everything and while I still make my way to the rec center for my runs almost every day, they’re not nearly as long as they should be for me to stay on track. But what can I do? Even with the best time management and making the most of my hours, I only have so much time to divvy out before I run out.

I just started my regular research lab hours at Dr. Gary Raney’s psychology lab, and it’s a significant commitment in my week because I’m doing the research for course credit as well. I’m still learning the ropes, but I’m optimistic that I’ll be learning a lot and I know I’m working with some brilliant people (including one of my past psychology TAs!).

On the Honors College front, everything with The Ampersand is percolating smoothly so far, and I feel lucky to have a strong editors board and faculty behind me with their support and advice. As editor-in-chief this year of the publication, this is my first real leadership position in the Honors College and I’m learning quickly that there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that many students don’t see. It takes a lot of planning ahead and countless emails, but I’m relieved that everything seems to be proceeding to the timetable. Our first publication will be out in late October, but our online student blog is still ongoing and attracting some fantastic, talented writers. I can’t wait to see where our publication goes this year!

And in my spare time (wait, what’s that again?) I ran my second race of the season! Last Sunday I ran the Bucktown 5K with my best friend Brandon. The weather was a little chilly at first but warmed up really quickly. The number of people that ran was really impressive! There were copious volunteers and the start corrals A-G all seemed full up. The race had a pretty relaxed atmosphere and I just really enjoyed myself by running through the unfamiliar neighborhood and seeing the different little restaurants and stores around me. I have another fun 5K coming up soon with a group of my friends—the Foam Glow 5K—and I can’t wait!

When it’s not the weekend, though…pretty much every hour of my days is packed with little time left just for me. This is not to say I’m not enjoying myself—because I thoroughly am. I may wake up far too early every morning groggy and with sand in my eyes, but it’s not stopping me from giving every day everything I have, even if I’m not completely finished with classes or meetings until the evening. It’s true that the semester — just five weeks in — has already taken a lot out of me already, yet my enthusiasm isn’t depleted and keeping busy is keeping me alive, feeling productive and accomplished at the end of the day. It’s a lesson that I’ve learned many times already, but I’m constantly reminding myself that nothing and no one can give me willpower other than myself.

There’s no magic trick to make me suddenly want to start studying or want to go to back-to-back lectures and then back-to-back meetings. But I know what I want, and I’m working hard to get there. There’s no real secret to be made of it really—I have to keep going because the solution to my problems is within me. So in the midst of the madness, as midterm season descends upon us…I’m hanging in there. I could use a couple more hours of sleep and probably some caffeine—but hey, everyone needs that.

Just keep swimming, friends. I have faith in you. And good luck with your own midterm season!

 And the day is clear, my voice is just a whisper / Louder than the screams you hear, it’s like the sun came out ♪♫♪

(Start of Time – Gabrielle Aplin)

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