A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
You’re back from Christmas at home and everyone is asking, “how were the holidays?” The answer you give? “Oh, fine. Yours?” The honest answer: you have been procrastinating and/or crying into a laptop about deadlines and revision. Exams and deadlines as soon as you’re back from the Christmas break are a given at most universities, but this doesn’t make it easy. This blog post should give you some ideas about how to cope with it (disclaimer, this is not a guide to exam techniques, but to getting through the examination period).
Know where your friends are. This will remind you that you’re not alone in the horror of trying to turn twelve weeks of listening into two weeks of writing. If you need to be at the library early, get your friend who likes mornings to text you when they’re getting up. Meet up for a coffee where you discuss your worries about the course. But also meet up for a coffee where anything university-related is banned. That way, you won’t get too phased by constant updates on how your friends are having ‘trouble’ cutting down their word count.
Talking of coffee, fill up on it. Make revision breaks a big reward: ten pages of reading equals one 45-cent coffee and a squashed packet of stroopwafels from the vending machine. Early start in the Lipsius common area? Bring a bag of pains au chocolate to share with your colleagues as a prize for being so organised. But equally, look after yourself and stick to your routine. If you like to eat an orange at 4.30 in the morning and then run six miles, keep it up. A normal routine will keep you sane and probably make you work more efficiently. Obviously, everyone has a late-night library meltdown at some point, but sticking to a structured day helps to avoid this.
Finally, the most important tip. Remember that it will all be over soon. Make a plan for after the last exam or final deadline. Sleep for 24 hours. Go on a trip to see all the windmills in Leiden. Have a big party and ‘accidentally’ end up at Bad Habits. Do all of them; it’s finally time to relax before the work starts again. It’s something to look forward to and the goal will keep you going.
Exams are important, but it’s what comes afterwards and what you make of your results that counts. If you are kind to yourself during exam time, you will have more stamina to keep going, and be in a better state of mind to write that essay or answer that particularly difficult question. Keep trudging through, do it at your own pace and stay calm. Eventually you’ll have finished exams and be in the real world, which is a completely different challenge.