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Peer blog: Staying resilient and keeping up

Liyi, Engineering, Class of 2024

In the month from September to October, my head has felt absolutely jammed with content from different courses. Learning online at an accelerated rate has been tough, but I am managing to the best of my ability. I’ve noticed that I now have probably 40% of the free time I used to have, with no time to check and reply to messages—ever! (I have also had less time to take care of my skin, and it shows.)

In terms of school, I have had my good days and bad days. There have been more instances of forgetting due dates and missing meetings since the beginning of university than I have ever had in my entire life. The only thing keeping me on track is the notifications for OnQ I receive daily that remind me of the tasks I need to do, which I input into my calendars. (See Figure 1). Taking a tiny bit of time to transfer this information into my calendar is keeping me on top of all those tasks.

OnQ Notifications

Figure 1: The hundreds of OnQ email notifications I receive every week.

In my first blog, I stated that I wanted to improve my essay writing. My Module 1 course for Engineering Practice requires a good chunk of writing. Currently, we are writing a report about modeling and designing a structure in a location with a risk of earthquakes. We had to learn how plan our project with our groupmates, and, especially with online learning, it seemed like we had been left to fend for ourselves. It felt tough trying to contact professors and our TAs for help.

When the first round of marks came back for the Mod 1 project, I was devastated. I cried. A lot. I was so sad that my new Queen’s friend took it upon himself to call me and comfort me. During the call I could barely talk, since I was sniffling so much, but he made me laugh and think of other things, and I felt better. If you’re struggling or disappointed with school, reach out to friends, family, faculty or staff. It can be hard to admit that things didn’t go as planned, but you’ll feel better for it.

Looking back, it is easy to say, “It was just one submission. You will improve in the next submission. You’ll work harder next time.” But when I got my grade, I felt that there were so many negatives: “We worked so hard on this. I failed my group. I wish we had done things differently. What are we supposed to do for next time?”

However, resilience—learning to respond to failure positively and constructively—is a useful skill to develop as a student and in life, although it is also one of the most difficult things to master. It is not easy to brush something off that made you upset or angry. It is not easy when you try your best and you don’t get the grade you want. But there’s always a reason to move on: right now, courses in first year are teaching me skills that will serve me well as a student and a professional engineer, so I know I have to find ways to respond to my professors’ feedback.

If you can, watch this TED Talk by Lucy Hone. She speaks about the secrets of resilient people and how they move past a tragedy. I know getting a bad grade isn’t a tragedy, but it can feel that way! To put it simply, resilient people:

  • accept and acknowledge the situation as a part of life
  • focus on the things they can change, focus on positive things, and focus for the things they were grateful for,
  • ask themselves, “Is what I’m doing harming or helping me?”

Revisiting that Ted Talk recently has brought me a sense of peace since I have some insight on what to do when the next inevitable low mark arrives. In regard to that Mod 1 mark, I tried to follow Hone’s advice. I accepted that a low mark isn’t abnormal: I am a first-year Engineering student learning remotely. Bad grades can happen.

However, I can focus on what I can change for the next submission. As a group, my team and I talked about what went wrong and how to fix it. Next time, we are going to write a more detailed outline to help with planning and organization (see SASS’s guide for advice), and we’ll write a thesis statement so that our next report’s major findings and conclusions will be clearer for the TA marking it.

Since today is Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn at Queen’s and to improve in the areas where I am lacking. I am grateful for my friends who comforted me when I got my mark back, and I am grateful that there are so many resources available that can help me.

Let’s work hard together and keep improving our marks and resilience!