Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Exam-time habits of Grad Students

I cannot believe that it is already the third week of school, almost October, and almost the official first day of fall (this Friday!)…This is definitely my favorite time of the year but all of this crisp autumn air and pumpkin-flavored goodies comes with a price: First round of exams!  The first test is always the worst.  At least that’s always the case for me.  Test number one is the student’s way of analyzing which parts of the notes to focus on, which parts of the book to omit, and what future tests will be like.  It’s like riding a wild rollercoaster for the first time; you can do your best to prepare for the big drop but it always takes your breath right out of you.  There are parts you expected, and others that are completely new.  And like a rollercoaster, this first exam can even make you a little queasy.  But after you shake off the adrenaline you feel accomplished and are ready to ride again knowing exactly what to expect in round two.  I would compare the first exam to one’s first boxing match but exams usually don’t result in black eyes (or do they?).

This week’s coming attractions include two tests: Monday is pharmacology and Wednesday is pathophysiology.  The pharmacology test encompasses the basics of drugs and their effects on the body.  While there are no actual medications to learn on this test, it’s going to be a challenge since it’s essentially the foundation of drug-patient reactions.  Like the good little grad-student I am I have read the chapters, highlighted the notes in no less than five different colored markers, and have still managed to convince myself that I don’t know a word of it.  But this is typical.  In my experience working with other graduate students on the weekends in the Graduate Lounge I have learned many habits that we as higher-lever-learners have managed to engrain into our brains.  As twisted as some of them are, we can’t hate because we all do it.  The first was just stated…

1.  We manipulate our brains into thinking that the right answer cannot in a million years be the right answer. 
            In order to better describe the phenomenon, let me give an example.  The other day I was eating my turkey sandwich in the grad-lounge and overheard a conversation about the drug Morphine.  Morphine, as most of us know, is a drug used for pain.  It also has the insane ability to make you sleep like Rip Van Winkle.  While one student was describing how morphine induces sleep another chimed in stating that maybe, just maybe, it actually puts you in a hyperactive state.  She then went on to justify how morphine could produce rebound effects and that in some cases patients might feel awakened and not sleepy at all.  At the end of her speech the other students looked at her and said, “Well, that’s our cue to stop studying”, and they all laughed.  This is a classic example of over-studying to the point where you don’t trust your intellect anymore.  In other words, you drive yourself CRAZY!  And rightfully so, as a graduate student it is almost impossible to pass without rigorous studying.  But there is also something called a gym, a café, and a bed.  Spending time studying with friends should be balanced with laughing with friends.  One chapter of reading should be rewarded with a brownie (or four).  But most importantly brain exercises should be rewarded (punished) with physical exercise as exercise has been linked to better grades and peace of mind.  And all of these things, I have learned, are just as important to studying as flashcards and post-its (I take that back. Post-its are pretty important).

The second habit of success is a bit more literal…

2.  We cry.
            For no reason, to anyone, and with gusto, we graduate student have our emotional moments.  Graduate work is an interesting concept.  We are all so excited to be in our own shoes that we sometimes get caught up in the moment of things.  Like the other day when I was stirring pasta I just broke out into tears and vented to my sister about how lucky we are to have this opportunity to pursue our education.  Little did I know she was taking a nap on the couch the whole time.  But I have witnessed numerous moments where my classmates cry out of stress, out of frustration, but mostly out of gratitude.  Graduate school is work, but it’s a whirlwind of emotions both bad and good.  Like with test week coming up, there will be some stressful tears for sure, but they are almost always followed by happy ones.  Moments like these, like brownies, are important because they make us feel less like studying machines and more like humans. 

Last but not least…

3.  We are creeps.
            Sitting directly next to someone in class will almost guarantee that by the end of lecture you will know the person’s name, where they live, their phone number, and whether or not they prefer their eggs scrambled or fried.  It’s one of the attributes of grad-students that I can say is the most unique.  Unlike undergraduate classes, we have gotten past the awkward “first impression” and skipped right to the point.  Graduate students at Regis are outgoing, friendly, and all about business, even when it comes to getting acquainted with our peers.  This can come off as forward, intense, or even as stated above, “creepy”.  But not to us!  We are all on the same level; willing to learn from each other’s experiences and make the most of our time spent of campus.  We all lean on each other for support, justification, and advice.  We admire this quality in each other and flourish because of it.  My fellow classmates have been some of the best resources I’ve had at Regis.  And if I hadn’t friend-requested them on Facebook in under twenty minutes of meeting them I would surely be missing out. 

While these habits may seem to lead to our destruction, they are actually what motivates us, brings us together, and reminds us why we are perusing graduate work.  To others we may seem overwhelmed, but in our own community we are sane capable adults working our tails off and doing what we can to succeed.  As this weekend approaches, the Regis library will be filled with grad-students no doubt, exhibiting habits 1-3 in intervals or maybe all at once.  Don’t be alarmed.  Come say hello, chat about the latest episode of Glee.  Just don’t steal our Post-its:)

Happy studying!

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