[CAMPUS COMMENTARY]Even during exam time, trying to be upbeat

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[CAMPUS COMMENTARY]Even during exam time, trying to be upbeat

It’s that time of year again. While flowers are in full bloom and the campus looks better than ever, the students are not enjoying the fair early-summer weather. Except for a few carefree freshmen who bounce their way through campus, more and more students are wearing the same jeans and wrinkled T-shirt they have had on for days.
Their shoulders are stooped from the weight of the textbooks and papers they lug around. All of the libraries and study halls are full, people’s faces are dark with doom and everyone looks more tired than ever. Yes, it’s finals season again.
Seniors like me should now be accustomed to all aspects of university life, but just like everyone else, I still get stressed out when exam season comes around. What’s interesting, though, is that it’s not actually the studying for exams that gets you but the mental stress ― knowing you have six exams to survive, and until they are over, you should do nothing else but study. Thus, I’ve noticed that students complain the most about a week before exam season begins. It’s premature complaining, I know. But, like many other college students, I am guilty of it.
I had dinner with an older friend a few days before midterms, a month and a half ago.
Predictably, half of the words out of my mouth were protesting the travesty of university exams and lamenting my fate, having to spend the “best years of my life” cooped up in a dorm room memorizing things I will “never need to know ever again for the rest of my life.” (A bit melodramatic, I admit, but I wasn’t myself ― it was exam season.)
After patiently listening to my carping for about half an hour, my friend looked at me, smiled and said ever-so-calmly: “You know, studying for exams is part of the college experience. It’s an experience that people like me who have already graduated can’t ever have again. Have you ever tried to just enjoy it?”
I was dumbstruck. What did he mean, “Try to just enjoy it?”
What did he know anyway? He hasn’t been subjected to this mentally stressful life for more than five years now. It isn’t that simple. How could I just all of a sudden decide to enjoy myself?
The next day I entered my 9 a.m. class feeling groggy and a bit cranky. I took out my books and a pencil case and looked around. Suddenly I was overwhelmed by something like disbelief, giving way to a kind of sadness. Everyone looked so exhausted, so stressed out, so haggard. And these people were all in their early or mid-20s.
I realized then with surprising clarity that my friend had a point. I couldn’t expect to fly through exam season looking immaculate and feeling no stress. But I knew more than 90% of my distress came from premature worrying and complaining. I should make a conscious effort to change my way of thinking. I couldn’t make life perfect, but I could choose to be happy. It wasn’t much, but it was a start.
One of the simplest yet most important things we can do while still in college may be to develop a habit of keeping a positive attitude. I’m working on it. And because of this effort, I know I’ll be just a little less stressed-out and a little more upbeat this finals season.

by Yoo Kyung Ha
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