April 16, 2021, by khyx2lyn

A Truthful First-year Psychology Experience

The writer of this piece is a first year psychology student who has chosen to remain anonymous

Hi, I’m a first-year psychology student just like you (assuming you are also a first-year student and one of my classmates). Since we’re nearing the end of our first year, I would like to take a moment to bring you on an incredibly personal journey recounting all the moments I’ve experienced in the past year or so since I’ve joined this school. There has been many ups and downs, epiphanies that I would rather unsee, growing pains from the past that resurfaced to my own detriment that has made this period a significantly important one, like p< .001 sort of significant (I can never use the word ‘significantly’ the same way I used to ever again).

It started off with a sense of reckless optimism, perhaps with a touch of naivety that I could still establish close friendships despite the whole online, long-distance set up that every university is undergoing at the moment. I was nervous (as many of you were too I’m guessing) but I forced myself in a lot of uncomfortable situations to try to socialise first and perhaps through putting myself out there, I may be able to find some form of a connection with a fellow classmate. Weeks turned into months, as one assignment after another rolled in was when I realised how lonely my university life was. Though I was talking to several classmates, I never felt like I was getting anywhere in terms on conversational material. Somehow, there was always a perpetuating feeling of insecurity and fear that blanketed each conversation, an overwhelming sense that “I’m not going to tell you anything because I haven’t even met you in real life yet” that only seems to worsen as perpetuating extensions of lockdowns get announced, slowly crushing what I thought would be one of the most life-changing experiences of my young adulthood. The whole aforementioned problem itself has got to be one of the biggest understated problems of online learning that many educational institutions are attempting their best by providing some form of counselling service. However, it does not change the fact that people are afraid to open themselves up to essentially strangers even with the knowledge that someday we would eventually see each other physically in person. The most difficult part of the social aspect of online university is attempting to accept the fact as to whether any interaction between your peers is even genuine or meaningful, beyond questions regarding assignments.

The second hardest part about my first-year was the unexpected avalanche of workload I would be expected to completed. From past experience, I’ve tried my best to submit my assignments rather punctually, rarely missing any deadlines since the fear of being at the receiving end of my educator’s judgement scared me more than failed grades (not a fun situation to be in). Being a meticulous person with high standards for myself, I realised that I could no longer afford to sustain my perfectionist tendencies if I wanted to maintain some resemblance of a sanity without sacrificing my entire life towards assignments. Thus, I learnt to pick my trade-offs, either spending more time crafting on an essay while sacrificing personal time off or submitting a ‘good enough’ essay with some downtime to spend for yourself until the next deadline. This was a recent painful discovery and a learning process still, so the ‘guilt’ of knowing that I could have submitted a better piece given more time still stings each time I click on the Turnitin page. The worse part comes from the fact that I’ve received higher grades for assignments that I’ve spent less time devoting towards compared to essays which I have cracked my head for hours trying to formulate my best arguments for, which is just additional evidence that shows time spent on an assignment does not translate to better quality of work (a bitter pill to swallow I know). This all begs the question: what exactly is needed for a good essay? Although lecturers have mentioned specific skills like critical thinking and even presenting several writing workshops for us, I am of the opinion that writing, just as with any other skill, requires time, patience, and persistence. Though I may be adequate in presenting arguments vocally, writing was always an area I struggled with the most. I have come to a point where I’ve accepted that I would not be able to consistently produce a piece that was better than the previously submitted assignment and that is okay. If you feel the same way, I highly urge you to recall the reason why you even decided to choose this course in the first place. Nobody is going to judge your entire work performance as a future counsellor/therapist/cognitive neuropsychologist based on one poorly written essay done at 4 am with 5 cups of coffee in your system. It helps to ease some of the self-inflicted pressure off your shoulders when you remember the big picture of why you are studying psychology in the first place, whatever reason that may be. The writing will get better the more pieces you write, it is not an overnight process and even if you asked your friends or lecturers what could have been improved or what techniques to implement, it comes down to consistent practice and being comfortable in acknowledging how much you have been able to pour into this piece instead of all the imperfections it has.

At some point near the end of the first semester, I started to re-experience a bulk of my depressive memories from my past online schooling experience. Everything from the feeling of isolation, incompetence, just completely unsure as to whether I’m doing anything right with university, it all started to unpackage itself like a rolled-out carpet from the past. To my surprise, experiences and feelings which I once thought I have learnt to fully grasp had slowly started to infer with both my physical and mental health, adding to the additional sense of general incompetence and feeling like I’m falling in a thousand directions at the same time. I’m aware that feeling is common whenever you start something new, but it can feel exceptionally difficult when you do not trust or know your classmates enough to even tell them how you genuinely feel. If that is the case, then I hope sharing this story of mine will provide you some sense of comfort that you are not alone, that as much as it seems like people are doing well, we all struggle with our personal problems that we choose not to tell. Good luck with that essay, it’s fine even if it’s a half-baked essay, there are plenty more opportunities to improve your writing.

Posted in blogdegreemental healthstudent lifeundergraduate