What Can You Learn from the Olympics?October 15, 2015

Sugarloaf Mountain. Copacabana. Christ the Redeemer. Nothing like a first-hand account of these places. The Games of the XXXI Olympiad will commence in ten months, and some students will be lucky to travel to Brazil. But let's not get too far ahead.

You must focus on your own race. Either you forgot it or your mind is wandering somewhere once more. The semester is not yet over, but you're struggling to cope with the coursework. No need to panic, as it happens to everyone. But how will you deal with it? Attitude plays a part. Awareness of the program is another matter.

Here are the things you must remind yourself again and again. It will be a long season. Pay attention to the following:

Do you believe in your program? This won't be your personal statement, the reason why your admissions tutor gave you a place (in the department). You outlined your virtues, making sure you were the next best thing in the English Department. And you enumerated the books you read. One month later, you were at a loss. You wondered what happened to the time, even what you got yourself into. And you wanted to study literature? Are you passionate about it? This is not about doing it at your pace. It won't be a lovely sight, being out of your comfort zone. But you're not alone.

Do you keep in touch with the faculty and your coursemates? You're not the invisible student (in the department). And the faculty is watching you. It's only natural to feel the pressure, but it can be a good thing. This prompts you to strive for better results. But you don't have to carry all the burden. Tell your housemates about it, and laugh it off. It's only sensible not to take it too seriously. Don't hesitate to approach your instructors. They do care. Don't expect a compliment every ten minutes or so. There are many people to motivate you. They only want the best for you.

How do you see the program? If you still aren't clear about what you're studying, then look at it this way. Will the reading list and assignments make you a better writer? If you have other career options, then think how three (or four) years of this kind of routine can help you in finding a job. Think this over, as it can determine what you really want to do. But don't be too obsessed about it.

How about your willingness? Knowledge won't be good enough. You must want it, even if you're not in the best of spirit. You must be determined, even if you're uncertain and not confident about it. And you must be open. This distinguishes the finest athletes from the rest of the pack. You won't get a gold medal, but a degree is shiny nonetheless.

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