Dear whoever you are, and wherever you are,
As you embark, or at this stage have embarked on a new academic year, for many the thought of end of year exams and perhaps even entrance exams as well as interviews fill you with dread and anxiety beyond comparison. Perhaps you’ve moved to a new school, even a new country and the anxiety, the feeling of overwhelm coupled by an unwavering sense of unfamiliarity begins to cloud your mind. I know I’ve just switched schools and for the first couple of days it was tough and emotionally exhausting, but it does get better. Act confident, try not to be awkward and shy, and don’t be afraid of unfamiliar faces.
But to the rest of us all, in the broader and perhaps more comfortable category, this year, we are students. What is a student? The oxford dictionary defines a student as “A person who is studying at a university or other place of higher education.” , or perhaps ” A person who takes an interest in a particular subject.” Keep that in mind and don’t hate the title of a student. As literacy is a valuable measure of those who have received an education, The National Literary Trust as of 2017 states that in the UK “Around 15 per cent, or 5.1 million adults in England, can be described as “functionally illiterate”. They would not pass an English GCSE and have literacy levels at or below those expected of an 11-year-old.” Therefore, to be in such a position of education is a privilege, not to be overlooked or taken lightly. It still shocks me that we, especially in the UK in this era have not achieved 0% illiteracy.
Now that you have understood that education is still a commodity and not a requirement, as a student you must work hard and learn, within and beyond the curriculum, a good student however, must know when to put the pen and paper down to rest. Learning to rest will become your greatest strength as a pupil at a school, collage or university, and you cannot hope to be as successful if you hadn’t rested. Burn out is honestly one of the most toxic of feelings. Ironically working too hard causes counter productivity and is not a situation to be in, especially so close to exams.
Exams are frightening, and I’ll happily be the first to admit that. Each person has a different outcome, experience and feelings towards the same sheets of black and white paper, and discussing these aspects post-exam is not a good situation. This leads me quite nicely in to my next point: do not compare yourself. Time and energy will consume valuable time where you could have looked at your own flaws and started the long, winding road to rectify them, or admired your strengths on the hilltop where the sun shines radiantly. Your strengths, please remember, this year, deserve to be highlighted and appreciated to the highest degree. We have an ingrained mentality of comparison, especially in the asian culture which thrives on believing one should strive to be better than the other, and this cultivates an environment of toxicity and distrust, all thrown under the blanket that is our apparent “fight for survival” or masked under “healthy competitiveness”. This bitterness that arises is rather like drinking poison, and hoping that the other person will feel it’s effects. Remember that you should only strive for your best, and that everybody’s best is very different.
Allow me to suggest the prospect of being graceful and kind to each and every person you interact with. Whether it’s a smile in the corridor, or an aimless conversation in the lunch que, allow me to mention that people will not remember what you say, but how you made them feel. Our human anatomy is excellent at controlling temperature, but appalling at maintaining our actions which can change as often as the sea meets the sand. We as students in a community (collage, uni or school) should aim to build each other up, rather than tear down. Let me suggest to you the metaphor that people are like houses. Some of cards will blow apart as the wind blows, others, often more like concrete buildings with locked doors and tightly shut windows. If someone’s let you into their home, you would treat the building with respect, not tear them down. Likewise, one should do the exact same with the actual human being in front of them.
I wish you the very best of luck this year and hope that you will have it as stress free as you possibly can have. A reminder that you are a student, not a working machine, comparative object and deal with lives of human complexity, and have the amazing ability to learn today, tomorrow, and the days beyond.