2021 Fall Academics Exams Korea Rebekah Harding Temple Exchange

Managing midterm week stress while studying abroad

No one likes to take midterms. Whether your professor allows open notes, you forgo a traditional test for an essay, or you get to work together as a group for a team project, most students feel that seasonal burnout that hits four times a year during exam week no matter what the conditions of the assignment are. 

And recently, I realized that studying abroad doesn’t make midterm season any more bearable— in fact, it’s quite the opposite. 

The first week of school at Ewha Womans University, as I examined each of my classes’ syllabi, I was fully expecting exam week to operate just like back home on Main Campus. As a senior, I felt like I finally knew what to expect and was confident that when midterm week rolled around I would be more prepared than ever to ace all of my tests. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

At Ewha, I was surprised when my Korean language professor revealed that we would be having four hours of midterms split between 3 class days. In the states, I had never heard of one test being that intensive, especially for a midterm. Luckily, the rules for each section were different to accommodate students with different strengths and weaknesses so that we would all score similarly regardless. The first section was a debate, in which we were paired with a team and had to stage a conflict for 20 minutes about a randomly assigned topic. While I was extremely stressed out about this section, I was lucky to get close with my teammates and we now meet and chat regularly as friends. The other three sections are all individualized and split between writing, reading, and speaking. 

Personally, having these tests drawn out for so long made the process that much more stressful. I’m the kind of student who likes to get everything done in a smaller window of time so that I’m not dwelling on the stress— if I have too much time to think about the test, I start to feel less and less confident. 

With my usual support system halfway around the globe in the States, I had to find a way to manage my midday panic in the days leading up to midterms. 

Turning to my classmates who felt similarly stressed out was a big help— after all, what’s better than some good old-fashioned commiserating? Even if it’s just for a quick coffee and stroll around campus, getting out of my dorm and setting down my notes did wonders for clearing my head and regulating my feelings.

It’s also important not to self-isolate. On the cusp of midterms week, I realized that I hadn’t left my dorm for any leisure activities in nearly a week as I dedicated all of my free time to reviewing my class materials and preparing for my exams. That was a recipe for a mental breakdown. After a good cry on the phone with some friends back on Main Campus, they finally managed to convince me to take the following afternoon off to stroll around one of my favorite neighborhoods and to check some items off of my wishlist. I grabbed a hot meal, did some retail therapy, and picked up some pastries for dessert on my way home, and just like that, I was feeling lightyears better. 

Exams are hard no matter where you take them from, but it’s important to prioritize your mental health even when it feels like you have no time for it. Take a break, eat a good meal, and make sure to switch up your environment every so often so you aren’t left feeling stuck. 

Learn more about how other students are managing their mental health during study abroad. 

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