A university student may fail to form an everlasting friends group, but the trio of ‘deadlines’, ‘pressure’ and most importantly ‘exams’ never leave them. The declaration of a test date triggers a symphony of stress in every student’s mind. But for some, it’s not just the usual pre-test jitters; it’s a full-blown orchestra of anxiety, conducting a relentless chorus of self-doubt. This was my reality during the first semester of my bachelor’s degree.
Psychology was the subject I loved and always dreamt of studying. Never in that dream, however, neither did I consider the number of units I’d be expected to cover, nor the number of flawless presentations. The task of finishing the syllabus became like chasing the horizon. The harder I tired, the farther it looked. The weeks leading up to exams were an amalgamation of constant cramming and watching YouTube videos to compensate for the bunked lectures. The stress led up to a hair-pulling stage which accompanied tears of frustration originating from the lack of any notes or study material to prepare for my exam, which was less than a fortnight away. My brain, usually serene like an orchard of flowers, was attacked by crows of apprehensions and self doubt. I frantically tried to retain information from several incredible sources, while scanning for knowledge gaps and making failed attempts to solve Previous Year questions. My confidence began to wither like the leaves of a tree in autumn..
Sleep became a luxury I couldn’t afford. In my dreams whispered the images of my fellow classmates studying through the night, leaving me far behind in the race of excellence. Nightmares of specific unrevised topics combined with past academic failures would not let me relax. My days were a blur of caffeine-fueled panic attacks and nights distraught by unfulfilled expectations. The world outside my study cocoon also constantly teased me, for being a bookworm or too overwhelmed by studies. Insta stories of vacations and cafe trips burnt me with envy. I was trapped between the constraints of academic success and the longing to give life to my teenage dreams.
The pandemonium of conflicting goals ceased as soon as I realized that this self-inflicted torture wasn’t serving me. I needed to come to a concord with my inner critic. So, post-exams I decided to talk to one of my teachers, the Head of my Department. She cleared the air of confusion from my mind like mist disappearing at the sight of sun rays. She helped me rediscover my priorities and identify the inception of restlessness that I had experienced lately.
Not swiftly, but surely things changed as I accepted the stark difference in the structure of school vs university exams, the deficit of study material, and the increased obligation towards regular attendance in classes and maintaining complete notes. Through semesters, my exam anxiety alleviated like the curtains of a stage before a performance. A walk in the park, a laugh with friends, a mindful meditation – these seemingly trivial acts became anchors in the storm, reminding me of my worth beyond the confines of exam scores.
The trek wasn’t easy, it was filled with loose stones and difficult climbs. The self-doubt still lingered, but I learned to acknowledge it, not succumb to it. I focused on understanding my strengths, not dwelling on weaknesses.And guess what? I emerged from the exam season not just with grades, but with a newfound resilience, a deeper understanding of myself, and the precious knowledge that my worth isn’t defined by a single test. I replaced the pressure to succeed with the joy of learning. The sheer bliss that follows this emancipation cannot be put into words. Holding the reins of your life and taking responsibility for less-than-perfect scores is a daunting exercise, but it marks one of the initial milestones of adulthood.