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A declassified school guide to surviving exam cram

University students can sometimes feel overwhelmed during exam time.
University students can sometimes feel overwhelmed during exam time.

SACKVILLE, N.B. – It’s Hailey Leclair’s final year of computer science at UPEI.

She has four computer science exams and one math exam in three days.

There is no way of avoiding the stress that comes with that type of workload, said the 23-year-old from Charlottetown.

During her first few years studying she didn’t make an effort to socialize with her classmates in fear of distraction, she said.

“I was left to figure it all out alone.”

When she started socialising with her classmates more, she realised she wasn’t the only one stressed out.

Now she asks classmates questions and they often work together, she said.

“It’s nice to have help and support.”

Her advice to future students is to take a day between assignments for other responsibilities and activities not school related.

“Don’t forget about your life and relationships outside of school!”

Nouhad Mourad can relate.

The Lebanese girl from Charlottetown works at the UPEI international office. She is graduating this year with a double major in Anthropology, Diversity, and Social justice studies.

She was inspired by a conference held at McGill University called, My Mind Matters, she said.

One in five Canadians deal with mental health issues, she said, with the first signs of mental illness often show during university as students are under a lot of pressure.

“We can’t understand what people are going through, but we can all relate as students.”

Many students work at least one job and are financially responsible for themselves and their tuition. They are balancing that while trying to have a social life, play sports or be part of societies, she said.

One in five Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime. University students often struggle to cope with the pressures they encounter.

“This pressure does not reflect a normalized part of the university experience.”

Mourad organized a My Mind Matters conference at UPEI April 1 and dedicated it to her friend Danielle Handrahan. Handrahan passed away as a result of mental illness almost two years ago, on June 25, she said.

“She was such a beautiful soul.”

Students came together and discussed the stress and shared their coping strategies building relationships and networks.

Students were taught indigenous methods of healing and understanding the body. They discussed how the pressure faced as students needs to stop being normalized and start being problemized. There were sessions on self-love, building confidence, yoga and meditation.

Third-year UPEI English and Spanish student Fallon Mawhinney presented some of her journals at the conference.

The 22-year-old has been journaling before bed since she was 12 and tries to stay on top of it two to three times a week.

“I do it when I need to. There are no rules.”

Journaling is a free and confidential way to manage the stress that comes with university or college, said Mawhinney.

“It feels good to get things out of your system.”

There are different ways you can journal, she said, lists are a helpful way of organizing yourself. Writing as if you are talking to a friend is a good way to speak your mind.

“I can rant about the smallest issue for days and no one will judge me or get tired of listening.”

It’s also a good idea to read it over now and then, said Mawhinney, it can help you solve the problem.

“It helps clarify the issue.”

Regular exercise helps deal with stress.

Another effective way to clear your mind is running, said fitness instructor Krista Doyle.

“I run to clear my mind, yoga to feed my soul and gym to feel like a bad ass bitch.”

Doyle is the instructor for a high intensity weight and cardio fitness class in Charlottetown called HIIT.

“It’s good to make your exercise routine a habit,” she said, “so you have to find a workout you enjoy.

Exercising regularly helps your sleep schedule, eating habits and gives you more energy, all of these things fall into your day-to-day life and improve your mood, she said.

“Exercise is perfect for de-stressing.”

Melissa Baxter agrees.

The Mount Alison university mental health educator finds more students need help during midterms and exams.

The school offers sessions at these times on how to deal with test anxiety and stress, said Baxter, but students come for help all year round.

“We help students with anything going on, not just school.”

There are two student development councillors who both have masters in social work. Three different psychologists are offered once a week. A psychiatrist is available once a month. There are two doctors and a nurse. They also have student mentors in each campus residence, said Baxter.

“We have a great team. There is always support available for students.”

Students should try taking activity breaks during assignments. They should break larger assignments into small pieces, she said.

“When you break things down it’s not so daunting.”

Limiting distractions and eating the right diet play a major part in staying focused. Limit caffeine and make sure you eat something every two to three hours, she said.

Eating regularly and healthy helps students concentrate.

“No one can concentrate when they’re hungry.”

We are all trying our hardest and that is all we can do, said Baxter.

“Don’t ever beat yourself up for trying your hardest.”

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