December at the university is an equally exciting and stressful time. Before you can enjoy Christmas, you have to make it through exams. There are only a few ways to make it through exam. Having been through this over the last few years, I have come up with some tips (or maybe coping mechanisms) to make it through. Use these during your exam times and I promise they will help, or at least alleviate some of your stress and help you enjoy the Christmas time a little more.
Set a schedule
Now this is really important for me. If I think I have all the time in the world, I accomplish nothing. There is so much information you need to go through, laying it all out and deciding what you’re going to study each day really helps. I like to write out a week plan with which subjects are going to be my focus that day. I then break it down a little further if needed. Say I have to make it through 10 lectures on pigs that day. I lay out what order and my review time. I also have to tell myself when I get my breaks. If I don’t schedule those in I either work so long that the things don’t stick in my head, or I end up taking a two hour break. Scheduling seems so simple, but it makes a huge difference in your effectiveness.
Breaks are so important. I like to study for 30 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. After two hours I get a 20 minute break. (This is a great amount of time for a nap!) This works for me, but you have to find what works for you. The important thing is to set limits. Like I said already, if you don’t decide how long your break is, you might find yourself 2 hours later still on Facebook as part of your break. Don’t let this happen to you. There are multiple apps or things out there that help you be productive by blocking your Facebook feed or other sites while you are studying. If you need to, use these! Your breaks are so important to help you rejuvenate, but if you loose your momentum, it’s also so hard to get it back. Take it from me, I like to get lost in so many ways because studying is not my favourite thing to do (don’t know who would want to study all day, but I’m sure there are people. I’m just not one of them!). Find what structure works best for you and be willing to change it up. My study patterns and schedules that I used in my first degree just weren’t working for vet school. The balance between structure and changing your structure from time to time can have a big impact.
Don’t study where you normally relax
Now this may sound like a no brainer, but I continually try to study in my bed. It has been proven to me time and time again that I am not as productive when I do this, but I continue to do so. Maybe I am writing this tip to help myself take my own advice… (Wishful thinking I know). Studying at my desk or the library helps my brain to get to work. Plus at the library I have other people watching me. I don’t wan them to see me on Facebook or Netflix and not studying, so I tend to be more productive. (Again this works for me, but not everyone). Sitting at my desk at home helps me to differentiate my work/study time and my break time. I have other classmates that do a great job at studying in bed. I keep seeing their photos so I’ll try it again because it works for them right? One day I will have enough self control to not study in bed. It will probably happen right after graduation.
Now this is something that is only available in November/December time so this won’t apply for your spring exams. There are other things that could fit this slot. I find that if I study all day, taking the evening and going to the Christmas market can be a great reward for accomplishing so much, as well as a nice break. You find people who haven’t been studying all day and enjoy all the wonderful booths. Not to mention the great food. Because I live further out of the city, this hasn’t been an easy option for me this year. So I decided my gift to myself after exams was to go and have a great lunch at the Christmas Market. You might as well enjoy it. Edinburgh has a great Christmas Market that everyone should enjoy.
This is a tip that works not matter what time of the semester you find yourself in. Pair it with ice cream during study week and you are golden. Instead of stress eating, I’m a stress snacker. During study week, I don’t eat a lot of meals, but wander more often into the kitchen looking for food. Most of the time I find myself not really hungry as stress takes my desire to eat away. Unless we are talking about chocolate and ice cream. I’m always down to eat ice cream. So this is what keeps me going during study week. I trick myself into thinking snickers are healthy with the peanuts. So if you need someone to help you justify it, just let me know.
Lastly, enjoy your Christmas Vacation
Once you have finished your exams, take a deep breath and enjoy Christmas. Whether you head home with family, or travel around like I do more often than not, enjoy the time off and don’t think about vet medicine. Now, if your like me (and don’t take others advice), you will do Extra Mural Studies (EMS) or other placements around Christmas. While I love working in clinics, getting EMS can be a bit difficult with closing times and holiday closure. So you might as well take it from someone who has worked the past two Christmases, take at least a week and just do nothing. Don’t think about school or anything to do with vet medicine. It will help you to be ready to start back up again with gusto in January. I’m finally letting myself enjoy all three weeks at Christmas. I am simply traveling and not working at all. My only wish is snow better come to Germany where I am taking my holiday. If you want to follow along on my three weeks of adventure, take a look at my instagram: https://www.instagram.com/adventurous.vet/ and follow the blog (which I can hopefully get on top of with all my free time) at https://www.adventurousvet.com
Talk to you all next year!! Hope you have a wonderful Christmas and set some great goals for the New Year!!