Springtime weather (even if it's intermittent) brings joy, pastel clothing, and picnics on the grass with your friends. However, it also means that the academic year is nearly over… and exams are a-coming.

As a first-year international student, it’s been quite a chaotic few months, and although I’ve been to so many lectures at all different hours of the day and made all kinds of friends, it feels like it went by like that. In other words, I, like many other first-years, am more than a bit terrified of the end of the year.

But don’t worry - in an age where we celebrate self-care (sometimes a bit too much), there's a litany of ways you can help yourself gain control of your life so you don’t have a breakdown.

 
 

1. Set at least one hour a day to do whatever you want

Everyone needs some time to just let go of obligations and veg out. Even if you have deadlines and assignments, an hour or so of freedom won’t hurt. We’re not robots, after all.

A lot of people say that a small break between studying can motivate you more so don’t feel bad for taking time to do something you like. Reading, going for a short walk, getting coffee with friends - anything! Whatever makes you happy is worth spending some time on.

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2. Make plans for the week and stick to it

This is especially helpful for when exam period comes around. I personally keep a bullet journal, and other than keeping me on track of events and lectures that I have, it also helps me plan out the coming weeks so that I can get an idea of what’s due, when and how much preparation time I need.

Being spontaneous is good in terms of travel and fun, but when you need to double down on your schedule it’s best to get physical paper (gasp!) and write out everything that’s due, how much time you need for each assignment, and how you’re going to divide your time. It takes 5 minutes and you’ll get a sense of being more on top of things so it’s totally worth it.

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3. Think ahead about all the fun things you’ll do in the summer

Once exams are over, it’s summer! For me, this means I can FINALLY go home after 10 months of being away. Yeah, summer might mean work but it also means going on holiday, spending time with your family, reuniting with friends and the faint but uncertain chance that we might actually get a sunny British summer this year.

Staying positive isn’t always easy, but deliberately thinking about summer and all the things you want to do once it comes can set you in a good mood, and it can also motivate you to push through the final few weeks. Set up a countdown on your phone or make notes in your journal. Thinking about how the “now” will help you get to your future is important both in short and long-term.

 
 

4. Make use of drop-in sessions and office hours

Lecturers - they’re there for a reason. Hopefully you’ve developed some sort of relationship (even if it’s just them knowing your name) and even if you haven’t, now is a perfectly good time to start.

Professors and lecturers are there to teach and guide you, so it’s doubtful that they’ll turn you away when you ask for help. Need clarification on an assignment? Ask. Want to get a grasp of how you’re doing in the module so far? Ask. Want to double (triple) check which parts are going to be in the exam? Ask! They can’t tell you everything, but chances are they’ll give you some hints.

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5. If you need help, get it

The first year of university is stressful. There are so many changes, new people, new environments… it’s perfectly normal to feel not so good. As much fun as moving away from home, going out any night you like and sourcing free pizza from different events for 3 meals may be, sometimes it can get a bit too much.

Most universities have a mental health clinic or support system where you can vent, do some relaxing activities, or learn ways to help manage anxiety/ stress/ anger/ sadness/ homesickness… There are so many ways that your university can help you deal with mental health, and there’s absolutely no judgment in seeking support!

 
 

With only a few weeks left, you’re nearly there! Remember that you’ve made it this far, and all you have to do is focus on what you need to get done. If you’re getting really anxious about your marks, just keep in mind that the first year doesn’t really count (as long as you pass). This is a time in which you’re supposed to try and fail studying techniques and organisation plans so that you can get to know yourself better!

Procrastination is real, and you might be reading this as a distraction from your work, but that’s fine! As long as you get back on track and beat those deadlines…

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