Advice from the (Peer) Advisors: Some Things I’ve Been Nerding Out On

Check out the following delightful list of just random fun things former Peer Advisor and student staff Meaghan Gallagher has been nerding out on!

If you’re looking for a non-COVID-19 related post, welcome. If COVID-19 is consuming your mind and you want to feel hopeful during this time, then read peer advisor Nicky Cacchione’s post about silver linings. It’s about as feel-good as watching Queer Eye or being chosen by a dog to be its petter.

I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about things I’ve been nerding out on recently. Maybe you’ll find out we have common interests, maybe you’ll realize I’m not that cool, or maybe you’ll find a new worm hole to go down yourself. No matter the consequence, here are some cool things:

  • I was taking an archaeology class called “London Before the Great Fire” this semester (peace, love, abroad) and it was completely fascinating. Before we were sent home for the semester, we would go on walking tours of the Roman, Saxon, and Medieval parts of London. I’d never have had that opportunity in DC – for the obvious geographical reason and my tendency to pursue outside interests only in Honors classes. I learned what the River Thames used to be like, before its encroachments, how to analyze the layout of a museum (Museum of London is excellent), and that there are remnants of the old Roman forum in the basement of a barber shop by Leadenhall Market. While finishing the class online isn’t as exciting as following my Professor through the streets of London and pointing out straight mortar joints and changes in topography, I am grateful that I got exposed to this topic and can now try to flex historical knowledge about London.
  • I’m writing a paper for a class about blockchain and art. I am not by any means an art connoisseur, so I was hoping through my research I’d learn about more about the industry. In addition to learning the word “provenance”, I’ve learned a bit about digital art. Did you know there was a CryptoKitty that sold for $140,000? Blockchain also supports fractionalization, meaning multiple people can share ownership of a single item. Instead of one person owning 100% of a work, 100 people can each own 1% of it. Fractional ownership expands the market, allowing more people to access art as an investment asset since the price gets diluted.
  • I’ve been nerding out on Westworld since Season 3 premiered March 15th. It’s super topical with data privacy and automation debates raging. Be prepared to watch it multiple times, as the timelines can get confusing and it gets better on rewatch.
  • Quarantine inspired me to try to learn how to play piano? My mom thinks I got inspired by watching Beth play her piano in Little Women (which I just read as well!). I really just need a new party trick after being told my North London accent is bad. I’m not so much as learning how to play than memorizing a few sections of songs I like, but Beethoven started somewhere too.
  • I’m reading “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” by Rachel Held Evans. Held Evans sadly passed away young last year, but she was a prominent figure in the Evangelical Church. She spent a year following several Bible verses literally, causing her to do things like sit on her roof and call her husband, “Master”. The book kept using the phrase “the nuclear family”, which prompted me to read this article from David Brooks titled “The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake”. If you have twenty minutes to read an article, this is fascinating. He talks about the economic, cultural, and societal factors that led to the decentralization of family structure.
  • I finally got around to watching the newest Star Wars trilogy, meaning I’ve been taking a lot of Buzzfeed quizzes and watching cast interviews. The originals were still the best, but this trilogy was better than the prequels in my opinion. Flawed, yes, but better acting and a good villain. Willing to debate.
  • There are these really good monologues done by famous actors for Almeida Theatre on YouTube. Here’s one Andrew Scott did (please watch Fleabag too if you haven’t) reciting a speech by Edith Sampson (who was super cool!). If you’re missing Origins, Derek Jacobi (who?) performed Socrates’ speech “I Go To Die”. They’re about 10 minutes each, so if you’re in need of some inspiration/philosophical contemplation/impressive acting, go watch those.
  • A couple weeks ago I watched Daniel Sloss’ show “Jigsaw” on Netflix. He mixes dark humor with bits of seriousness at points, but it’s been one of the best pieces of standup I’ve seen in a while. I’ve shared it with everyone I know who likes comedy. He has a bit that’s ended at least 7,000 relationships – take that as you will.

That’s what I’ve been up to. Last time they let me on the blog, I wrote about how disillusioned I had become about “finding a passion”. Clearly, I still can’t settle on just one thing. Hopefully one of these things tips your interest and keeps you occupied for a few hours. In the meantime, stay healthy, practice social distancing, and have as much fun as possible.

 

 

Advice from the (Peer) Advisors: Self-Care in Quarantine

Check out the following self-care tips from Peer Advisor Sydni!

UHPers, we’re living in some very unnerving times. Quarantining at home sure wasn’t how I planned on spending the next few weeks, and I’m pretty certain you might feel the same way, but as a peer advisor and resident mom-friend, I want to make sure that the rest of your semester goes as smoothly as possible. Taking care of yourself both mentally and physically is of utmost importance right now, so here are a few socially-responsible ways to maintain normalcy in the abnormality that is the world at the moment:

Set an alarm every morning

We unfortunately just gained the ability to sleep literally all the time, it’s in our best interest to get up at a ~normal~ hour during the week. Even if your classes are continuing asynchronously or your morning LSPA is no longer running (pun fully intended), waking up every morning at the same time is going to create a routine that will help to transform home-life-mode into academic mode. Sleep is still important, but getting too many ZZZs can begin to throw off your motivation or harm your mental health in the long run. Sleep in on the weekends, but the sooner your semester online starts to resemble your school life, the better.

Netflix Party (Who doesn’t love a good party?)

Missing movie nights with West floor 2 or in the townhouse? Wishing you could hang out with your friends in a safe, socially responsible way? Look no further than Netflix Party. This Chrome extension may be my new favorite thing, period. Have all of your friends download it, pick a movie or tv show, and send them the link Netflix Party generates. Not only will your movie/show be synchronized, but the chatroom sidebar allows you to make all the same jokes you would make at a movie night in Foggy Bottom. Happy watching!

Take a walk

I know this is every mother’s advice right now, but hear me out. As a huge dork that still plays Pokemon Go, walking around my neighborhood for a half-hour not only gives me an excuse to hatch eggs and catch whatever Pokemon may be nearby but also the opportunity to clear my head. Being at home with family might be nice for some time, but having some alone time to get some air, try to process whatever bit of Platonic wisdom Origins teaches, or just to have a change of scenery can be really beneficial to your wellbeing. Even if you’re going outside to sit and read a book or learn a new TikTok dance, getting out in this CDC-approved way can make a world of a difference.

Continue to meet with professors, academic advisors, and your peer advisor

Just because we’re not physically at GW doesn’t mean your professors, academic advisors, and your peer advisor aren’t here for you. Like our love of the Hippo mascot, the support these individuals provide is unconditional! Professors are still hosting office hours and your UHP academic and peer advisors are more than happy to schedule a video call to talk through schedules for next semester, new grading policies, or any other concern that comes to mind. One of my favorite parts of the UHP, if not my favorite part, is the power of the community we have; no one here is going to let you struggle in any way, especially not now. Continuing the semester online presents a unique set of challenges and worries, but as the cast of High School Musical once said, we’re all in this together. 

Intellectual omnivores, we have your backs now more than ever. In unprecedented times we must continue to keep ourselves and our loved ones as happy and as healthy as we can. Continue to check in on one another, continue to ask for help if and when you need it, and continue to have hope. Raising high is what GW does best, so keep raising your head high and stay positive, focused, and healthy. We’re here for you.

An image of Peer Advisor Ryan

It’s Okay to Hit Mute: A Guide to Staying Mentally Healthy in This Strange Age

Check out the following wisdom from Peer Advisor Ryan!

Currently, there are 112 words on my muted words list on Twitter. I know that number seems rather high, but allow me to explain.

In these strange, strange times in which we’re living, there is no shortage of statements about the coronavirus. There’s the crucial information that comes from doctors, medical experts, and local authorities, of course, but there’s also a glut of responses from just about everybody, even folks who you’re might not terribly interested in hearing from. Every clothing store you’ve ever bought socks from is emailing to communicative its COVID-19 policy; every discrete department and office at GW is sending you the same five tips for containing the virus; and every news outlet is running every conceivable coronavirus story imaginable. This seems only logical, we might think; it’s just what you have to do.

More brightly, there’s also been a deluge of (marginally) more sensitive content among this negativity. There are plenty of cute infographics about how to work from home, or tips for Zoom-based learning, or videos of celebrities admonishing you to practice social distancing.

These things, should they float your boat, can be great. But for me, they felt insufficient, in some way—while it felt nice to feel my sadness and worry be validated, the fact remained that these things left me feeling more negative than if I hadn’t seen them at all. So instead, I did something different: I just muted it all.

Coronavirus. COVID. COVID-19. #coronavirus. #COVID19. #C19. #COVID-19. #COVID_19. #COVID2019. Pandemic. Symptom. Diagnosed. Epidemic. Hand sanitizer. Wash your hands. Quarantine. These are just a few of the words on my long, long list—and it’s an ongoing project, as Twitter users seem to be constantly hopping to new permutations of #COVID19 with each passing day. On top of this, I used the content preferences on my phone to allow me to use my news app for only one minute each day—enough to get major notifications, but not enough to be sucked into a pool of despair. And I couldn’t be gladder about doing it.

Does this mean that I’m contentedly ignoring this issue? No, of course not. I care deeply about the epidemic, especially as an immunocompromised person, and I’ve spoken with my health care providers and keep up with official statements from my local government. But expanding my muted words list in this way was like a gift from the universe, because it allowed me to see that my life wasn’t getting any better, I wasn’t getting any safer, and the world wasn’t getting any healthier by me reading another anxiety-inducing tweet. On the contrary, these tweets were only making me feel so freaked out that I was paralyzed, unable to do anything to help those around me or do my part to protect those even more vulnerable than myself.

I think of this great purge as an act of discernment—I’m discerning when online coronavirus can be good and beneficial, and when, on the contrary, it’s not helpful. Because, to be clear, all of this content should be directing you to help your community, or to love those around you, or to act with safety and thoughtfulness—and if it’s not doing that, then you aren’t obligated to expose yourself to it every single day. Needless paralyzing anxiety doesn’t isn’t good for anybody!

Even further, it’s important to remember that your discernment might put you in a different place than mine did. For some folks, it’s possible that reading every bit of coronavirus coverage is helpful. As I’ve said in quite a few words, that isn’t the case for me. So in these times of difficulty and tribulation, I want to offer a word of advice to anyone who needs it: it’s okay to be discerning with this stuff, and it’s okay to decide that you’ve read enough for the day.

Advice from the (Peer) Advisors: “Silver linings — Smiling in the Face of a Pandemic”

 

Check out the following refreshing perspective from UHP Peer Advisor Nicky Cacchione!

72 hours ago, I was sitting in Buenos Aires, Argentina about 5,000 miles from our beautiful Foggy Bottom campus. I had just been on “vacation” (lol all of an abroad semester feels like a vacation… but just go with it) in the province of Salta in Argentina and had seen Las Salinas Grandes, which are these incredible salt flats (seriously look up some pictures it’s nuts!), but all of a sudden, I found my semester abroad turned upside down. Now, I find myself writing this blog, after 24 hours of straight travel, in a friend’s apartment here in DC. To say this isn’t how I expected things to turn out is an understatement, and I know I speak for a lot of people when saying that sentiment probably resonates with you all. However, in the face of all of this uncertainty, tragedy, anger, sadness, and confusion – I want to implore the UHP community to do something that seems almost too hard to do right now: find the silver linings.

I think for all of us, these are incredibly stressful times. Personally, I have no permanent housing until my lease starts in mid-June, I am out thousands in planned personal travel, I can’t see relatives in fear of spreading the virus, I was thrown back into a culture I didn’t think I’d experience for another 50+ days, I had to abruptly say goodbye to newfound friends abroad, and the GW I was forced to come back to is almost completely desolate. To be honest, I can’t, and don’t even feel bad for myself in all of this. There are people dying, losing their jobs, and losing their homes. There are high school and college graduating classes of 2020 that aren’t sure if they will get a proper commencement, and are now positive it won’t be when it was expected to be. There are even other students like myself, who were abroad, who had only been in their respective locations since the first week of March. No matter how bad, or comparatively “okay” your situations are to any of these people, I think now, of all the times in the world, it is time to stay positive and take comfort in the small things.

For me, the first silver lining was reaching out to my business fraternity pleading with someone to let me crash at their place, not expecting anything of it, only to be received with 8 text messages from different people, some who I barely am close with, saying that I could use their apartments. The next was a 6-hour flight home from Panama with a friend that I had wanted to get to know better on my program, we talked the whole way. The others have included unexpected reunions with my best friends here at GW who I didn’t expect to see until May at the earliest, monument runs instead of crowded gyms runs in Buenos Aires, and support of a GW community on my return from abroad (thanks for the free toilet paper guys, I didn’t realize how hard it’d be to find some).

For all of us, it can be the fact that we are blessed with technology. We have the ability to keep in touch with all of our friends through this fiasco via facetime or video games or whatever platform you choose. Or it could be that some of you get to see your families earlier than expected – hold them close even if they get on your nerves, because family is forever. More trivially, maybe you were not having the best semester academically; well now you can choose to take that tough UHP class pass/fail and it won’t affect your GPA. Moreover, do you know how many tv shows and movies and books we are all about to get through? Choose one with a friend and call them about it after every few episodes (if anyone still needs to watch the Marvel Universe movies, your boi is making his way through those as we speak). Regardless of what it is, there are silver linings to every situation: yes, even COVID-19. The process to find them isn’t easy, and they aren’t going to fix the problems that the world has right now at all, but if there is one thing I learned from being abroad in Buenos Aires, it’s to smile in the face of uncertainty, and learn to relax because a lot of things just aren’t in our control. On the contrary, what is always in our control is what we do to try to make ourselves happy.

So UHP, I’m happy/sad (great Addams Family reference right here if any of you get it I already love you) to be back so soon with you all – keep lifting each other up on social media and posting pictures and workout routines because you are all gorgeous and strong, keep drawing fruits and veggies and tagging your friends, and keep on finding the things throughout this that are going to make you happy.

I hope to see you all soon – stay safe and healthy!

Much love,

Nicky Cacchione

Advice from the (Peer) Advisors: Humanities Research and Wisdom from the Creative Writing Department

Check out the following post from Peer Advisor Chrissy House (CCAS ’20)!

Photo of Peer Advisor Chrissy

I’ve spent the last four years facing the infamous “exchange of glances” when I tell people I’m majoring in Creative Writing and English, the glance which means, “Ah, another unemployed English major will soon be released into the world.” And though I have long fallen victim to those glances and often worried for my future, I have an offer of employment for after graduation: an employed English major soon to be released into the world. As the picture I chose to accompany this post signifies, there are some doors you might not see at first glance, but once you push past the undergrowth and daunting requirements lists, you will find the door open to you. Don’t be discouraged from pursing opportunities for which you feel underqualified, apply and you may be pleasantly surprised.

I found myself in a similar position last year when my major advisor pushed me to apply for the GW Undergraduate Research Fellowship. I felt unqualified to pursue research in a sea of SEAS students—what does humanities research even entail?—but decided, what the heck, I’ll apply. I continued to feel unsure of myself as I chose a topic and wrote my research proposal. A section of the application asked about my previous research experience, a field in which I continued to feel underqualified. I’d done an extensive research project in high school on utilizing native pollinators in the face of dwindling honey bee populations, but that had been scientific research, and since coming to college, my only research had been research papers for German history and literature classes, which consisted of reading books and journal articles.

My major advisor and faculty mentor read five different drafts of my application until we were all satisfied. Subtle plug here for utilizing GW staff! I got more excited about the project as we discussed different directions my research could take—beyond just reading books and journal articles, my research proposal included taking advantage of my semester abroad in Germany to further my research on playwright Friedrich Schiller by attending modern productions of his plays and visiting museums and Schiller cultural sites in Germany. And as I got more excited about the project, I began to look at how my past experiences could benefit my application, instead of just seeing how few experiences I’d had. My research in high school prepared me to identify experts and reliable sources, taught me professional email skills for contacting experts in the field, and gave me practice in preparing for and conducting interviews with professionals. Additionally, my prior experiences required me to hone presentation skills that would benefit me in preparation for GW Research Days. My German papers here at GW had already exposed me to German music and cinema, so I wasn’t entering the theater sphere completely ignorant of German culture.

The conclusion of the fellowship saga, as I’m sure you guessed, is a positive one: I received the GW Undergraduate Research Fellowship. I travelled all over Germany seeing plays and visiting museums, an experience I likely wouldn’t have had without the fellowship. I continued my research upon returning to GW and transitioned the fellowship into my Senior Thesis.

What I’m trying to say here is don’t sell yourself short. Even if you feel underqualified, apply for that internship, fellowship, or job; don’t be afraid to take a chance on yourself. Find the strengths in your experiences that will make you a better candidate and highlight them. Believe in yourself. If this English major can get a job, so can you.

Advice from the Peer Advisors: DC’s Best Bookstores

Check out the following DC bookstore tips from UHP Peer Advisor Chloe Wagner!

UHPers love books, so here is my rundown of the best bookstores in DC (both New and Used) so you can find your next favorite pick. 

Capitol Hill Books — Located in Eastern Market, Capitol Hill Books has a wide range of used books and records. The small local shop keeps book foreign language books in the restroom, but it has quite an ~aesthetic~ and has a huge range of history/political books for the poli sci majors among us.

Politics and Prose — You’ve probably heard of this one before because it is a staple among Washingtonians and anyone who worked under the Obama administration. Other than the amazing authors who speak at their venues across town (I’ve seen Pete Buttigieg and Ta-Nehisis Coates there recently), they also have a remarkable selection of social science, African American literature and feminist books for you to dive into.

Second Story Books — Located in Dupont Circle, Second Story has lots of really cool vintage books and maps. The highlight of this store is their fantastic $1 and $2 sales on everything from short stories to cooking books and travel guides on the sidewalk outside.

Potter’s House — Potter’s House is my personal favorite where I could spend an entire day. This nonprofit bookstore, cafe and community event space has everything a college student needs: coffee, baked goods and a wonderful selection of social justice books. In addition, all of their proceeds go back to the Adams-Morgan neighborhood and the organization’s community-centered programming!

Idle Time Books — Another Adams-Morgan staple. I found a book of satirical cartoons about the Arab-Israeli Conflict from 1967 here, and it’s one of my most prized possessions. They have a great poetry selection and lots of fun postcards. 

Advice from The (Peer) Advisors: Doing Homework Is a Skill?

Image of Peer Advisor Gwen Umbach

Check out the following study tips from Senior Peer Advisor Gwen Umbach (CCAS ’20)!

On the second day of this semester, the slam of my apartment door startled me from a social media stupor yet again, to see my homework spread around me, long since abandoned. I hadn’t intended to spend thirty minutes checking my notifications, I actually wanted to get ahead on my work this time.

UHP students are notorious even within GW for doing lots of things at once, and for me one of the biggest challenges of college has been keeping myself focused enough to finish all those things. Though it’s always a struggle, this semester I’ve finally managed to implement some of the great advice I’ve gotten over the years, and I want to share a of the few things that have actually helped me not only start my work, but finish it.

As the brilliant Ben Faulkner pointed out to me, not all homework is created equal, and choosing what to work on first helps maximize time. Whether you’re a morning person, or one who only does homework when it’s dark out, knowing what time of day you focus best (not just when you’re the most
panicked) helps manage those assignments that require the most brainpower. Similarly, when I have lots of assignments to do in a night, working from hardest to easiest, or giving myself easy work between the hard assignments, has helped make my brainpower last much longer than it used to.

The second and the biggest change I made to my work habits was defining where I work. In high school, I always studied at home, and when I started college I continued that without any real thought, but over time it has become apparent that I am terrible at concentrating in my own home. After trying most places on campus, I have finally settled on the DC Public Library as my place for more intensive homework. For easier or less pressing work, I choose a different location—maintaining the sanctity of
the library as a hard-work-only zone has helped me stay on task when it matters the most. Regardless of what the best place is for you, finding it and committing to it makes a big difference.

The last, and hardest, piece of making a work schedule, has been the actual ‘schedule’ part: deciding when to work. This is the advice that I heard repeatedly from professors and advisors, and failed repeatedly to put into place: Block off time for homework, and if anyone asks you to hang out during those times, say you’re busy. In order to stay focused, not just during one afternoon but in the long term, consistency is key. That means tricking your brain into thinking that you absolutely have to sit down and work, even though there is nobody forcing you to follow through. This is a big adjustment to make from high school, where parents, teachers, and coaches oversaw most of our activities and knew if we skipped out on something. And it’s even harder when you start long-term projects like an honors thesis, that might require a lot of self-discipline. Last semester, I utterly failed at this. I ditched my scheduled work hours for activities with friends, campus events, and even peer advisor meetings. Now, though, I’m holding to that schedule (so far), and it has made a huge difference in the amount of work I get done.

It is both frustrating and heartening to realize that now, as I’m about to leave GW, I have finally discovered some strategies for working and studying that I can actually stick to. As useful as this would have been four years ago, it’s remarkable to think about how far my habits have evolved from where I was in my first year. I’ve finally accepted the reality that study habits are a skill to be practiced, and despite the many question marks in my future as a soon-to-be-graduated senior, I’m starting to trust that as time goes on, I will continue to improve at the skills that I’ve gotten a grasp on in college. Even when I still find myself hopelessly distracted, it’s comforting to know that if I’ve come this far, I can get even better in the years to come.

The Great Alone, The Review

On Tuesday, January 21, 2020 The Review had its first monthly meeting where we discussed Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone. Here is what we had to say. (Warning, spoilers!)

 

First, our general consensus is that the novel reads like a bestseller. The story checks off many boxes of fiction like romance, adventure, coming of age, trauma, and family crises. At the end of nearly every chapter there was a cliffhanger or new plot line opened, making putting down the book a challenge. Although there were important themes that were thought-provoking, the novel didn’t change most of us. If anything, the constant movement of the plot became tiring and fantastic, which made it challenging to read.

The three main themes in the book that we discussed were trauma and violence, the forms of love present in relationships, and the themes of feminism. First, we discussed the challenge of placing blame on Leni’s father or seeing him as a victim of PTSD. Hannah wrote Leni’s father’s character in a way that made reader’s conflicted and almost felt relief when he died, yet felt sorrow for his pain and how he had to deal with PTSD. It made sense given the time period that his suffering after being a POW in Vietnam would be glossed over and not well-played out, since many veterans suffering from PTSD at this time had similar experiences. What was interesting is that Matthew received therapy after his traumatic experience with his mother’s death, so it was not as if treatment was unavailable for people living in Alaska at the time. Leni’s father refused to accept treatment ever, making him not just a victim of his experience. Another great question brought up by my own mother who read the book after I did is whether Leni’s mother should feel blame for putting Leni at risk by following her father to Alaska.

For themes of love in the book, Hannah plays out neighborly love, love as a “sickness” with Leni’s parents, family love, and love as a form of survival. We did notice that there is never true platonic friendly love. Leni misses that even when she moves back to Seattle, where Hannah only develops out the love she experiences with her family. Large Marge and the other female neighbors help Leni and her mother survive in the wilderness and Leni’s father, again following the theme of love as a form of survival. Even Leni and Matthew’s love becomes a form of survival.

Finally, we discussed the themes of feminism and strong female characters in the novel. A clear example of this was the strong female neighbors and their protection of Leni and her mother. What we struggled with is that Leni did not seem to grow much as a character on her own. When she was in Alaska, she may have been lonely but she was not growing on her own and in her own will. When she left Alaska, she was a young mother and had to grow as such. The only true decision she made on her own was returning to Alaska, where she immediately returned to being in a relationship and growing with Matthew. It was frustrating that Leni could not grow as her own person, but perhaps that was the tragedy of her character.

Interested in joining The Review? You can sign up for emails regarding our meetings here. Next month in celebration of Black History Month we will be reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

Apply to be a Peer Advisor

Honors Peer Advisors are an integral part of UHP advising. They provide mentorship to incoming first-year students and advise on the UHP student experience, honors classes, housing, and all other facets of life at GW. If you have a knack for mentorship and lending a helping hand, this could be the position for you.

Are you interested in applying to be an Honors Peer Advisor? Applications are now open:

  • Apply here if you’re applying as a new Honors Peer Advisor
  • Apply here if you’re applying as a returning Honors Peer Advisors
    • Please note that the Peer Advisor Leader (PAL) application is only available to returning Peer Advisors. It is included in the returning Honors Peer Advisor application form.

The application deadline is Friday, February 7th, 11:59PM. Please contact benfaulkner@gwu.edu with questions regarding the application.

#HonorsProblems: How to Ace Finals and Finally Relax

Peer Advisor Daniel Kassl in front of some cherry blossoms

Be not stressed about finals, dear UHPers! Heed the wise words of Peer Advisor Daniel to get you through this challenging season.

Well, here we are again. For some reason, finals season just keeps coming around at the end of each semester. Someone should really do something about that. Nonetheless, we now confront four, five, or sometimes even six final exams that disproportionately affect semester grades, challenging us to recall all sorts of random, seemingly useless information from lectures (including, often times, anecdotal vignettes during which the class fell asleep) to be employed during these long blocks of exams.

That’s one way to look at it, at least. One thing’s for sure: finals are tough. In high school, my finals were only nominally final. Rather, by the end of the semester, we all knew our grades save for those folks who aced or bombed what were called our final exams. At any university, though, we’re pressed to comprehensively demonstrate our knowledge and understanding that we acquired throughout the long semester to prove that we have mastered material. That’s quite scary, and foreign to many first-year students here at GW.

The first step in succeeding during this finals season is establishing some sort of studying regime that works for you, which includes what time of day you study, where you study (whether in Gelman, your bedroom, etc.), how you allocate time to different courses, and most importantly (believe me), how you’ll take breaks. This isn’t to say that you need a binding, notarized document with a study plan on it—even though that would probably do the trick—but rather that you should visualize some plan to which you can hold yourself accountable.

If you’re like me, studying in the morning is a non-starter, studying in Gelman cubicles causes you anxiety, and taking breaks can often interrupt your flow of thoughts. So, figure out a routine that works for you if you haven’t already, and take initiative to adhere to it. And for God’s sake—take a break and reward yourself for working so hard once in a while.

The final step involves understanding that a final exam is, in fact, final. I cannot adequately explain the frustration I’ve had five minutes after leaving an exam when I remember that I made a mistake—and now there’s nothing I can do about it. But that’s also the beauty of it—there’s nothing I can do about it! You shouldn’t worry about what you can’t control, and unless you’ve mastered telekinesis (in which case we should chat) you cannot change what you wrote in your final paper or on your exam.

At the end of the day, you’re an Honors student and are prone to pre- and post-exam anxiety like this, but I strongly encourage you to take a step back and a deep breath and understand—literally—the finality of final exams. You’ve worked diligently and tirelessly for a semester, and now you should take advantage of the holiday break to catch up on TV shows (I strongly recommend Curb Your Enthusiasm), read a non-academic book (I plan to read The Shining over break), and enjoy having much, much less to do. You deserve it.

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