Hey Gaels,

Welcome to a new semester! I hope you all had a restful winter break and are feeling refreshed and motivated as we get started with 2022.

With my winter exams occurring early in December, I was fortunate to have almost a month-long break from classes. Like many of you, I used some of this time off to document my personal and academic highs and lows of the past year.

2021 was a defining year for my academic growth. In the final semester of my undergrad, I took on three academic commitments that were completely new and intimidating to me at the time: I began TAing, private tutoring, and mentoring with SASS. The year also contained some exciting milestones. I completed and presented my undergraduate thesis project toward the beginning of the year; then, I wrapped up my first semester of graduate school at the end of the year.

Although I’m proud of myself and grateful for these accomplishments, I feel hesitant to characterize my academic growth by these “highs.” Rather, I believe that it was the countless setbacks and struggles that I faced when writing thesis drafts and studying for graduate classes, my willingness to openly recognize these struggles as room for growth, and my overall willingness to ‘put myself out there’ and take risks that truly dictated my growth in 2021. I learned more useful information from my mistakes than from my achievements.

Since making this connection between mistakes and growth, I have felt strongly motivated to identify areas of improvement for the new semester and to make changes accordingly. Many of the challenges I faced last semester revolved around the same three core themes:

  1. Time management: I would spend too much time on certain tasks, causing me to rush other tasks or stay up late to complete them. I also found it hard to prioritize between my extracurriculars and coursework. Thus, I plan to allocate a maximum duration for my tasks this semester—one that cannot be exceeded—to ensure I always have some downtime and motivation to work efficiently.
  2. Perfectionism: I delayed handing in many assignments until they were “perfect,” which also set me behind on other tasks. Thus, I plan to practice setting more realistic standards for my work. After all, I also need to allocate time for other commitments.
  3. Procrastination: I found it easy to delay large tasks with far deadlines, such as scholarship applications for my thesis and end-of-term reports. Thus, like Santosh, I plan to set deadlines for smaller chunks of these tasks using the SASS assignment planner.

The biggest change I am making heading into the winter semester is my note-taking strategy: for all of my university experience thus far, I have used pencil and paper to create 100% of my study notes. I have been very reluctant to change this system. However, to (hopefully) optimize my efficiency, I took the risk and bought the iPad Air over the break, which I plan to use for all of my note-taking/studying going forward as a substitute. Stay tuned, as I will provide updates on how the switch from paper to touchscreen works for me!

I’m wishing you all the best in the winter semester and with your goals for the new year. Hopefully we can all regroup on campus after reading week! Stay healthy, and happy 2022.

- Shahnawaz

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