By Fiona Lee
Hello, everyone! I feel like I was just welcoming everyone back to college, but midterm exams and assignments are already upon us! It’s said every year, but the semester goes by too quickly.
While the stress of midterms is creeping up on me, the urge to travel more and more seems just as important! In the last few weeks, my group of friends and I spent a weekend in Quebec City. We didn’t have much of a plan and ended up just wandering around, but I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. There’s nothing worse than trying to co-ordinate a big group, trying to cram specific things into a weekend away and turning the trip into an organised stress-heap. We shopped, read some historical plaques, had drinks, found some scenic spots and zip-lined over a waterfall. We had a great weekend and it was really lovely to experience somewhere new with some lovely people.
Reading week is next. This will be the longest stretch of days we have without classes while I’m here, so I plan to make the most of it. While studying for midterm exams, I took a little break to book flights to Boston for a few days. I’ll be traveling there alone. All of my friends here had different ideas of what they wanted to do for those few days, and for whatever reason, I really wanted to go to Boston, so I’m going solo. It sounds a bit daunting, maybe a little lonely, but as someone that has never travelled alone before, I’m very excited to experience what it’s like. The hostel I’m staying at sounds really social too, so who knows, maybe I’ll meet a few friendly folks.
And yes, we have a reading week instead of a study week here in Ottawa. I wasn’t sure what to think of it at first, but then I found out why they decided to make the change away from the system NUI Galway still uses. They decided to give students a week in the middle of the semester off to go home, to study, to have a breather, in order to decrease rates of suicide amongst students. Apparently, it has worked to that affect dramatically and most Canadian universities have adopted it for the same reason.
It may sound stressful to not have a study week just before exams, but another major difference between University of Ottawa and NUI Galway is the weight and amount of continuous assessment (at least for Arts students). My usual semester in one module consists of a midterm essay worth maybe 40% of my grade, and 60% goes towards the exam. This generally encourages a month of mindlessly attending lectures and then disappearing from everyone for a week while I work on my essay, then the same again until study week. There are a lot more assignments here, which seems like more work, but they’re all weighted more fairly, and I honestly feel more engaged with what I’m learning compared to my studies in NUI Galway. I’ll let you all know if the end of semester exams are more stressful as a consequence of no study week, but so far I’m very impressed with the system here and would love to see a similar change in NUI Galway. Today is World Mental Health Day (on the day of writing this article) and I think it’s time to stop offering cups of tea to overwhelmed students when we should be considering the problematic systems we have in place for them instead.
I shall now retreat back into my study cave, and I hope to come back in one piece after my travels next week. Good luck in your exams everyone!