How I Write and Learn
This semester, my anatomy course has posed a unique challenge for me. My previous studying methods were not helping me reach the level of understanding needed to excel on the quizzes; instead, I found myself falling into the trap of reading over material in the textbook and feeling a false sense of understanding. I could recognize what I was reading or the diagrams I was examining, but my quiz grades were still less-than-ideal. Frustrated with this pattern, I decided it was time for a change in my studying habits!
I have always felt that, in my life, there is a direct tie between food and focusing. When I get hungry, I have no desire to do my work. If I find myself wanting to stay focused, I know that snacks motivate me. I used to carry at least two in my bookbag with me at all times. Whether I’d sit under a tree outside and eat in-between classes or go to Lenoir with my friends instead, I had a system to stop my hunger and help me focus.
Somewhere in this year of quarantine, I went from just casually using social media to being a full on addict. Between Snapchat, Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram, my attention span was totally shot as notifications, dings, and buzzes pulled me away from class, homework, and even sleep. After a few months, I’d become a master at logging onto Zoom calls with half my attention and getting by with only half a night’s rest.
What makes me a unique writer? This is a question I ask myself often. As an identical twin, saying that I have gone through a bit of an identity crisis is an understatement. I am constantly confronted with the reality of my own uniquenesses, or the lack thereof, especially when it comes to writing.
In college, I consistently wrote papers last minute. I rarely outlined anything. My senior thesis–supposed to be a year-long writing project–was written in a flurry in March and April of 2013. (I changed the novel I was writing about in February.) While I was furiously adding footnotes and writing whole sections of my thesis the night before it was due, a good friend of mine was calmly line editing hers. I was jealous–and started to acknowledge that I might be a die-hard procrastinator.
For me, one of the most challenging parts of online learning is my attention span. It seems like the longer I spend on my laptop with fifteen tabs open, jumping between them and glancing at emails while on yet another Zoom call, the less I can actually concentrate on any one thing. These days, I struggle to concentrate on a task for more than twenty minutes at a time. I jump between projects at odd intervals, working on eight things at once and yet somehow not getting any of them done. It’s the worst!
Pandemic conditions and fully remote class loads have left many of us students with a mix of synchronous and asynchronous classes, including me. Navigating asynchronous work can be difficult, because it often lacks the enforced structure of a live lecture format and requires me to be self-reliant not only in learning the material, but also in managing my own class schedule. After one and a half semesters of virtual instruction, I’ve developed some strategies that help keep me focused and on track with my asynchronous work.
Since I’ve been forced to live in a quarantined world, it’s been real easy to spend all day sitting. It was a sudden adjustment for me; I used to try and either walk to or from campus every weekday, which made sure I got time outside. I realized I missed walking like this, so after about two weeks of being locked in the house, I started to make movement a part of my working routine. Since I spend a lot of time working on writing projects, this push to start walking has ended up becoming a pivotal step in how I approach my writing.
The MCAT tests every pre-med prerequisite in ways that may be unfamiliar and, frankly, quite daunting. This summer, I’ve decided to buckle down and start studying. In the process, I have learned more about my own learning styles and how I study best. I want to share some tips that have been helpful for me so that they can be beneficial for others!