by Belinda Nzadi
If there was one word I could use to sum up my 2021 studying experience, I’d use “relaxed”. These aren’t exactly the words one expects to hear when describing a studying experience, but surprisingly this has been mine (I’m living the dream).
I wouldn’t have anticipated that my honours year would be as relaxed as it has been thus far, despite being told by others, who had previously done their honours in bioinformatics, that it would be quite smooth. I can truly say this has been the case, if anything, it has been a bit too relaxed and too good to be true.
I keep waiting for a moment where the stress and work starts to pile up, but it never seems to come. I suspect, this is because my first 3 years of my undergraduate studies have been nothing but work, work, work, deadlines and more work. I’ve become so accustomed to working at a high level that having less work than usual makes me feel like I am not doing enough or under-performing – this is worsened by being surrounded by people that are constantly working.
The feeling of under-performing has been a bit of a pain, and has made me question whether taking a “break” between my medical studies was a great idea. I sometimes feel like I’m wasting time because I’m not working enough, and that maybe I should have just continued with medicine like the rest of my friends. To deal with these feelings, I’ve had to remind myself that I’m not just doing “nothing”, I’m resting, and that is more than enough because I can’t pour from an empty vessel.
Despite “struggling” with “a little amount of work”, I still do have deadlines, lectures, projects and piles of journal articles to read, most of which I get to do in my own time, which can be a slippery slope if one isn’t used to learning independently.
I’ve always been an independent learner, so attending live lectures was never mandatory for me all throughout my undergraduate studies, I felt like I got more work done when I went over lecture material on my own as opposed to attending live lectures. This however, hasn’t always been the case this year, I’ve had to attend some live lectures because they were more helpful than looking over the material on my own, so striking a balance between working alone and with the help of lecturers has been something I’ve had to learn along the way.
Two other important aspects of learning independently is time-management and discipline – I don’t think people can say this enough. Knowing yourself and the pace at which you work is so important because it can help you decide when to work in order to meet your deadlines without being completely frazzled. Deciding to work early is always best, but it often doesn’t always work out, because sometimes you just want to rest, and sometimes doing so is possible, but most times, you need to be disciplined and push yourself to get the work done.
Overall, my academic experience has been a pleasant one because I’ve been afforded so much time to: put more effort in my work, rest and focus on my hobbies, and honestly, I think choosing to go into honours before going into my clinical years, has been the best decision I’ve made for myself, I definitely needed this “break”.