This semester was one of the craziest of my life. I had a long commute where I was driving almost two hours daily, taking fifteen credits (equating to five classes, one of which was a teaching assistant position), working on three research reports and presentations, not to mention, dealing with stressful personal issues . . . but I survived!
Let’s start from the beginning. I’m an English major with a minor in communications.
This semester, my classes were COM 200 (Interpersonal Communication), ENG 351 (Survey of American Literature I), ENG 300 (Introduction to Literary Studies), ENG 304 (Survey of British Literature I), and COM 399 Directed Studies (One of three Teaching Assistants for Theories of Human Communication).
Because of the office hours for my TA position, my schedule was basically back-to-back from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. two days a week.
If you’re thinking about taking on one of these positions, about to go off to college or are wondering what your future holds, I may be in possession of your crystal ball.
A basic week, for me, the 15-credit overachieving student trying to stay motivated, looked like the following:
On a day like Sunday, November 17th, I’d get up at 6:00-6:30--that’s my version of sleeping in during the school year! Then I’d have coffee, talk with my family, agonize over life, and eat breakfast. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t get rolling with homework until 9:00-10:00. I was always upset that if I had been more disciplined, I could have gotten up earlier and started reading, getting some more homework time.
Typical homework for the weekend would be reading and researching, for example: Read the biographical info on Washington Irving and Edgar Allen Poe; read Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle”; read Poe’s “The Tell-tale Heart,” “The Purloined Letter,” and “Philosophy of Composition”; Read John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera. All this reading and taking notes/underlining would take several hours. I’d have to find time during the weekend to work on a research report and/or presentation.
Two days a week I’d get up at 4:30 a.m. and work at the grocery store from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., go home, and after trying to unwind or wasting time on Facebook, I’d try to do a little bit of homework and chores, and try to get to bed by 10:00 if there was school the next day.
Twice a week for school I’d set my alarm for 4:15 a.m. and leave home by 5:30 a.m, listen to loud music then say Rosary to fix my anxiety, and arrive at school 30-45 minutes before my 8:00 class.
After class, I had my office hour, a 35 minute break, and then four classes back-to-back all over campus. By rushing and not wasting a lot of time, I’d always get to my classes on time.
At 5:00 I’d be done, and either run errands, hang out with a friend, or go home. If I could get home by 8:00, I’d see if I’d have time to do homework.
On my day between classes, it was stressful to do all my homework for most of my classes. I would do homework all day except for little breaks.
One day’s homework could look like: read Hawthorne’s biographical information and stories “The Birth Mark,” “Mrs., Hutchinson,” and “Rappacini’s Daughter”(pages 2,641-2,680), and prepare Theme Leadership (one time assignment relating themes from the stories). Read Johnathan Swift’s Biographical information and “A Modest Proposal” and “Gulliver’s Travels Book Three.”
I was supposed to work on research reports, but usually could only just barely finish my reading, or would have to push off some of the reading until my office hour.
Aside from school and work, I had two writing jobs to sometimes pay attention to, as well as a weekly commitment playing piano.
I didn’t have Facebook until this summer/this semester. I now deactivated my account. I learned it was a huge time-waster. I would leave my iPod near me when doing homework, and would check posts when I got push notifications. I was also doing the same thing by texting a friend or friends all the time. What seemed like a minute or two adds up quickly into an hour or more of time “wasted.”
Yes, socializing is important, but at appropriate times. Getting distracted by messages and Facebook posts was ruining my concentration.
My memory of readings became more fragmented, especially when added to the pressure of forcing myself, a usually thorough person, to rush to do so much homework. I was jeopardizing my grades for my social life. Those hours could have been spent doing research.
I suggest using Facebook or texting only for mini-breaks between homework assignments, or to set time aside before or after doing homework. Also make a time limit and stick to it. Too often I’d get home from work and intend to do homework after checking e-mails and Facebook “for a little bit,” but then found I lost an hour or longer.
I found it was less frustrating to go on Facebook when there was a lot new, rather than having only a couple of new things left me feeling bored. If a text is important reply, but if not, don’t worry about it. Your true friends should understand you’re busy.
Overall, this was my semester most of the time. I could only do as much as was possible, since I couldn’t pull semi-all-nighters before my school days.
At times major assignments were due, there was extra pressure to do everything and to do assignments well, since I like being thorough but I had to rush.
At times, I hated everything about my schedule. But, in the future, I’ll remember the words of Milton from Paradise Lost: “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”