Reflections on my past year of study

Long post ahoy. A lot of thoughts and reflections today.

I finally found the time to start cleaning up my HSC mess that had exploded onto my study desk. After finally deciding on which mountain of resources to rummage through first, I slowly began re-organising everything and discarding the things that were no longer useful.

It's interesting how just a couple of months ago, these things were so priceless and meant so much to me, and then right after the exams finished, they were hardly worth much anymore.
But I think that depends on how you see the situation.

I know that I felt it slightly difficult to place these sheets into the 'rubbish' pile that was slowly accumulating in height.

Practice English essays
Although I severely disliked the exam style of English (I could go on an entire rant), seeing the stacks of essays that I had written out whilst practicing my hand and mind for the exams provoked some bittersweet memories. Most of all, I felt a small tinge of sadness that I'd never have to do it again.

Though I'm not sure if it was sadness. It was more... bittersweet? Or just a sense of closure which was difficult to swallow, because as much as I disliked the exams, I loved learning. And I'm going to miss the concept of English class and the memories associated with them.
(Though, in a way, you could say English never truly ends or leaves you. Depends on your world view)

Then the math sheets came and I stood there staring for a while.

So many sheets that I never truly found the time to completely go through. Yet, they meant so much.
I had a big love-hate relationship with mathematics. (In the end, I still loved it more than I disliked it, and I still regard it as one of my favourite subjects in high-school.) Seeing these sheets did prompt me to consider doing one for the heck of it, because I missed it.

I missed the learning. I missed being stumped on a question and asking 'why?' and seeking help. I missed the satisfaction of completing a question and the process of just trying to work at this one problem with all these different possible tactics gushing through my mind.
I just missed the experience.

Two of many, many, math sheets that Mr R bestowed upon us.
Looking at the sheets makes me want to reach out and grab the moment again.

I think overwhelmingly it was just a feeling of nostalgia. Being in the classroom with my friends and just doing maths. As nerdy as it sounds, I miss it and I miss that feeling. I miss the laughter and the learning, most of all.

Math class was probably my favourite subject. It was challenging, and wasn't my best subject, but I loved my class and I loved the challenge itself.
It pushed me to my limits, and as hard as it was at the time (many frustrating hours), there's a strange sense of longing. It all sounds so cheesy, but I don't know how to express it right.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way.
Just thinking the fact 'I'll never sit in another math class with Mr R and my friends ever again' makes me quite sad.

My biology practical book.
Also something I noticed is that throughout the year, I became more and more busy. Near the final weeks leading up to the HSC, I probably reached the worst stage, where a lot of my sheets weren't stuck into my book, and were loosely hanging around everywhere.

I think there's a bulk of reasons as to why this happened. Maybe because I had been finishing up my notes by then, so everything in the sheets were essentially paraphrased in my own notes, so there wasn't really much point in sticking them in.

It was inconvenient though, not going to lie. My biology book looked like it was going to explode.

1/3 of the thickness of my book was purely sheets that I hadn't organised or stuck in.
I'd read them all, but just left it at that.
In hindsight, I wished I could have been more organised, but in HSC year I found myself having decreasingly amounts of free time available, and thus I suppose you have to adapt to changing times.

Sometimes it's just not worth it or viable to go through with your original plans, and you have to think on the spot and come up with something else. Which was really my tactic for HSC. Most of the time I just got by by trying to utilise my past experience to improvise better solutions to things, because I just did not have the time.

Flashbacks to my 2013 book that I used to study economics, and I had the time to do everything that I wanted to in order to prepare for my exams.

The writing is so neat.
Also in hindsight, with reflection, I realise how big a role economics played in my life during 2013 (and years before). I devoted so much time to it, because it was accelerated (and thus, I could put in more time).

Whilst doing my HSC, I used to always think that what I was doing was not enough. I'd always look around and see more things I could do -- more things I could study or work on. I'd be inspired by those around me who seemed to be studying even more than me, and I'd have such high expectations of myself that I'd find it necessary that I studied more, even if I physically did not have the time to.

But in hindsight, now that HSC is over, I realised that I did study a lot. I did devote a lot of time to my studies. I loved learning, and I took everything (all the lessons, homework, and things that my teachers said) whole-heartedly and consumed it with an appetite, even my taste for that particular subject may have been bland (e.g., English).

I'm not trying to say that in a good way or a bad way. It's just who I am and is something about me that I've grown to understand about myself. Not everyone loves learning, and not everyone loves high-school learning in particular. Personally, I love learning about anything and everything, and in the last year, it came to play a big role in my life.

I like to think that my love for learning was mostly beneficial. It did motivate me to study and I liked what I learned (thus, content stayed with me easier, because I just genuinely enjoyed learning it), and this was translated into marks. But at the same time, it was detrimental in some aspects.

I think there was a period in the last year that I devoted too much time to my studies. There were moments when I shut everything off and just studied and studied and forgot other things in life. Though I did get good marks, I can't be sure if the studying was behind it, because in the latter half of the year, when I balanced my time more evenly with all aspects of life, my marks didn't drop much either. And I also can't be sure that it was worth all the forgone time for myself, my friends, and my family that I had to put aside during that period of my life.

As the year passed, I changed a bit. Especially after IBO, I realised that studying is good, but only in small amounts, and I think I toned down on it a lot. I think it did me good. I felt like my life was in a lot more balance, and I enjoyed it a lot more. I realised there were more things worth my time in life, and I began to realise that my previous approach may not have been the healthiest in more ways than one.

I think there's a fine line between my love for learning and being obsessed and controlled by it. I like to think that I grew to learn how to deal with it (I feel like I did), and hopefully this'll carry onto University, where studies are just going to get harder and bigger (which is both a good and bad thing)

Anyway, that's a big enough speel.

I also found some art things from Biennale, which I thought were really nice.

I'm very keen for next year's.
My only regret was not going to Cockatoo Island because I didn't have the time to find someone to come with me. Hopefully in 2016 though!
I was torn as to whether I should throw these nice pages out or not. In the end, I chose one and stuck it on my wall, and unfortunately had to discard the rest as my wall is running out of room.

I also found the notebook that I brought with me to the Olympiad Summer Camp, and I reflected on that a bit more.

A random page I flipped to.
It's funny because at the camp I had a lot of mixed feelings about study.

I felt so overwhelmed by the sheer intelligence of everyone that was there at the camp, that often I felt dwarfed (not only in physical size haha). After what I deemed a 'failure' in my first theory exam (43%, whilst average was 48%), I did begin to lose a bit of hope (especially after seeing people get 63% in these exams).

But, at the same time, I didn't.

I did relax up a bit, and just enjoyed the summer camp more. Less on the exam marks and studying, and more on the experience. I don't regret that.
But deep down I knew I still cared. I always still care about a lot of things.

I would still make these 'To-Do' lists on things I didn't understand. I'd still ask questions and try and think critically. I still tried to understand every concept that was presented to me.
That is, in the lectures that I stayed awake in. (I tried so hard not to fall asleep in my immunology lecture, I swear, because I wanted to learn it. But alas, I legitimately remember nothing from those 2 hours except trying to stay awake by manually opening my eyes with my fingers, and then turning to see my friend, KLL, asleep leaning up against the wall).

Despite 'losing hope' (and I honestly did not think I would have a chance of getting into the team), I still tried to learn. And I think there was a subconscious part of me that still thought I had hope.

And the reason why I'm mentioning this is because I also stumbled across my 'Sentence a Day' diary that I started earlier this year. Sadly, my last entry was July 17th, before I became too busy with studies to even set aside 10 seconds to write a sentence each day (a commitment that I now know I could have made).

 But this entry is interesting:

There are more, but I didn't take photos of them.

My point is that although I did give up hope, so to speak (in the way that I definitely understood that the odds of me being selected into the team were slim, and initially I knew that it would be so difficult to actually get into the team), I have to be technical and say that there was a part of me that didn't. Or at least, didn't want to.

Deep down I still had that hope.

And it took me a long time to even admit that. It was only the day after the final selection exam that I realised that I did want to get into the team, and that I couldn't stop myself from studying and really trying my hardest to learn and prepare for it in the days leading up to the final exam. But I can't be sure if this entry (which was the day after the exam) was because I finally realised that I still had hope, or if I finally admitted that I did.

It wasn't a decision I consciously made. It just happened.

Reflecting back, those three days (leading up to the final exam) were the three days of my life that I had studied the most. I genuinely don't believe I've ever crammed so much knowledge into my head in under 36 hours. Not for anything in my life before, no.
I crammed an entire first-year University biology course equivalence of knowledge in three evenings at Macquarie Library, after school. That really only adds up to about 18 hours (including day study).

I don't understand how I did it.

I'm not trying to brag, because I honestly don't think it's something I could do again. I surely wasn't able to cram that much for HSC or for any other thing in my life, and I also don't recommend doing that (cramming should be avoided, but I broke that rule for IBO).

My point is that in reflection, it's surprising to see how much this meant to me. This one exam which I had little hope for, was so attractive that I essentially dropped everything and did a feat that I seriously doubt I can replicate in my life again. I wasn't even sure it would do me any good. I hadn't done fantastic in my previous IBO exams, so the odds weren't in my favour. I didn't think I'd get in. I just knew that I would never forgive myself if I didn't try my hardest. So I did try.
That was what my high expectations did. That was what my ambitions did. That was what hope did. 

That's an example of the good that's come about because of my hope and high expectations.

I can tell you that time and time again, it hasn't ended in such a happy ending.

So many times I've had such high plans, such high expectations of myself, and I've fallen short. Either by my own doing, or poor performance, or just all-in-all poor chances. I've seen it time and time again throughout the last study year. I've used time, effort, tears, and still fallen short.
Sometimes it hurts when your 'best shot' is still not as good as another person's 'half shot'. But it happens to all of us. You can never not give your best shot, because then you'll never find out what could happen. For heaven's sake,  whilst I was cramming, I didn't think I'd make the team. But something still made me study so hard for it (and superhumanly, too), and I still don't fully comprehend it, but I think I'm starting to have a clearer image of what drives me.

But that's just who I am and that's just how I managed my HSC year.

Also, looking back on marks and old assessments from the year also made me think.

At first I thought "Wow, that entire year basically made me realise that my education and my academic worth is condensed into several numbers that are inputted into a computer to spit out four digits which could potentially dictate my future."

Ranging from 20s to 12s to everything in-between.
But, then I thought about it some more and...
Well. I think it depends on how you see things.

It depends on whether you see things as a final mark, or as the journey you took there. (Yes, cliche, I know.) And I don't think you should ever let anything define you. We are individuals that are far too complex to be summarised, labelled and packaged. That goes against everything I believe in terms of a 'person'. (Thus, I find it exceedingly difficult to answer questions like "If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?", etc.)

As much as my final HSC mark can be condensed into four digits (hopefully those digits will start with two 9's), it doesn't have to. I don't see my HSC year as a number. I see it as a long year with a lot of learning. Learning about both HSC content, and also about myself.

And I'm sure I'm not the only one who sees it like that.

I was having a discussion with a good friend of mine, VD, and it made me realise what education really meant to me. Cleaning up my desk today also made me consider what the past year and my learning experience meant to me.

Take my IBO experience. I've talked about it time and time again, yet I still don't think I'll ever stop.

I could summarise my IBO experience into three words: "Bronze medallion. 101st". But that wouldn't be the real experience, would it?

On the other hand, I could describe my IBO experience in the work that I did. The things I learned. And of course, the people I met. The experiences I had. It really depends on how you look at it and what your world view is.

I found a stack of IBO sheets that I had read through (all of them!) to prepare for the IBO.

In hindsight, I'm not sure if they helped much. I can't remember. It was a lot of content. I spent lunchtimes reading through them and many hours working through them all. I particularly remember this because I devoted a lot of time to it, likely because I loved human anatomy.

Laughing at my over-eagre high-lighting.
It was a lot of work. But I loved it. And I miss it. I miss the experience.

Going through all these sheets made me think a lot. It made me reflect on what studying means to me, and what learning means. It made me think about the time I devoted, and the things I learned in the past year.

It was a big hit.

Throwing out this stack was hard.

I can almost see the tree that died because of this
There's something sad about throwing away so much. Some people like to burn it (and I'll admit, at first, when HSC was over, I did have an urge to just throw everything in the air and jump for the clouds because YES HSC IS OVER AND I DON'T NEED THESE STUPID SHEETS ANYMORE)

But with the adrenaline of the end over, I think I can see things more clearly now.

As much as I complained about the last year, and as much as it made my life so difficult...
As much as I said time and time again "I can't wait for this year to be over" and "I hate HSC year, it makes life so unenjoyable", in hindsight now, I don't see it that way.

Not to say those thoughts back then weren't legitimate. Oh man, they were. At that time, that is.
It's just that now it's different. Now that it's over, and with results coming out very soon, it's just interesting to think back on the year.

Though I miss it, I wouldn't want to do it again, no.

But my experience isn't something I hope to forget anytime soon.

My Argentinian friend, TA, invented a word that I think describes this moment. It was as a joke, but he coined it 'sadpiness', in which you feel both happiness and sadness simultaneously. It's paradoxical that both can occur at the same time, but when you think about it, I suppose it really isn't.

I think it was an experience that will be one I'll reflect on a lot in the future. It was a year that I learned a lot about myself and what means a lot to me. I don't know where this post is going or how to end it.

I'm exhausted from typing (and rock-climbing yesterday). This post really had no point, except for me to dump and resort my thoughts regarding education and the last year. If you made it this far, wow! I'm legitimately impressed. Hopefully my writing isn't that boring, then.

Also I've recently realised how important blogging is to me.

Anyway, have to prepare for interviews and such in the next few days. I will try to update but no guarantees. It's going to be a busy next few months of my life.

Stay safe, stay hydrated, and stay healthy.


Post a Comment


Instagram Photostream

About Me

My photo
Hello! I'm a student from Australia. I like photography, am aspiring to be a Doctor, have fallen in love with many things that life has to offer, and hope to see more of it. I've been blogging for a while and over the years what it means to me has changed. Currently still trying to figure that out, but here I am in a weird hybridisation of photography, film, blogging, and the confusion of a young adult, you'll find me here writing about my experiences and life. Or whatever tickles my fancy. Whether that's entertaining or not is yours to decide. Stay hydrated, kids.