Taking on a new project

I want to start a project. The reasoning behind this is that my entire life I have been the sort of student that has always “winged it”. Sometimes this has worked in my favour, allowing me do other things that are more interesting, like playing 16 hours of Fantasy Life, or baking cheesecake and watching it set for the next 12 hours. Other times it has caused me to fail miserably.

For many years, I believed that some people are just better at some subjects than others are. Sure, to some extent, there are certain biological factors that determine if you’ll have a natural knack for science or language. However, after attending a lecture on fixed mindsets at the University in Oslo, held by Hanne Sølna and Knut Mørken, I started viewing things a bit differently. I spent my years in high school/sixth form not studying, and jokingly passing off any bad grade I got in chemistry or French as my brain not being physically able to learn the subject. This took the responsibility out of my hands. It was not my fault that I got a bad grade; I simply was not capable of ever being good at chemistry. This however, was a huge problem, as I since the age of four have always dreamt of becoming a veterinarian, and one of many requirements for attending any veterinary college or university is an extensive knowledge about chemistry and biological science.

So there I was, flunking chemistry, laughing off my bad grades to my friends, cramming for the final exam, while secretly agonizing over not having studied more the two previous years. I knew I was going to fail, yet I would not give up my lifelong dream of becoming a vet. I could not let the restrictions I had made in my mind determine my entire future. Therefore, I made it my number one priority to change my lousy science grades into straight A’s.

The next couple of years taught me that not only was what I convinced myself about my own capabilities not true, it was the complete opposite of the truth. Turns out, I love chemistry! And through my love for language and explaining things, the fascination for the subject grew, as I could create metaphors and similes for explaining chemical reactions and processes in a simpler, more comprehensive way. I used this both in study groups and while revising for classes and exams by myself. This example illustrates two crucial lessons I’ve learned. First, find ways to study that suit you. Though a lot of trial and error, I’ve found some study techniques that really work for me, and other less successful ways to study. Secondly, never believe there are things you are unable to learn to at least some extent, even if it is just the basics. By building a rock-hard foundation, you can solidify your knowledge, and be more confident when trying to teach yourself the more advanced subjects in your desired field.

I used to have a very fixed mindset. I believed that my traits, such as a good ear for language, were a given. I believed I was born with a certain set of skills, and when my talents had reached their limits, I could not break that final barrier. Growing up I never had to ask for help, I just did the required coursework and thought I just had a talent for the subjects. When I finally did need to ask for help, I did not know how, because I had never studied for anything. When I tried to sit down and concentrate, and read what felt like giant walls of text, I got bored and distracted, and I would only study if it were the night before an important exam. This lead to many frustrated all-nighters, where I achieved the grades I wanted, but at what cost? Looking back, the stress and anxiety of it was not worth the hours of reddit-browsing or other mindless time consumption I had replaced my revising time with.

After attending the lecture at UiO I started looking back at my life, thinking about my attitude towards learning, and slowly realizing I had been going about it wrong for all those years. If I did not change my disposition towards learning, I was going to be left behind in my other, more studious peers’ dust. I did not want that to happen, I wanted to excel. If you look at athletes, they are not born with huge muscles and amazing stamina. They build themselves up from perhaps a natural talent, but when they reach their limits they do not give up, they push through. That growth mindset set them apart from other people. It makes them excel. They realize that while they may or may not be good at something at first, they have the capability to learn, to grow. If I apply this to myself, and my study habits, I can take my natural talent for formulating things, and making them easier to comprehend, and put them to use by rewriting difficult number-based formulas and turning them into allegories, that make them both easier to remember, but also simpler to explain. By relaying the information to others, I retain more of the information myself, solidifying what I already have learned, making me more confident in trying out new things and teaching myself new subjects.

Therefore, as previously mentioned, I want to start a project. A project to set myself back on track and remind me why I started this learning journey to begin with. I want to find the optimum way for me to study, in preparation for my biggest, and longest running goal, being accepted into veterinary school. This project will have me trying out new study techniques each week, pushing myself to try out new things, and hold me accountable if I start to slack off. By keeping this blog, I will have to document my findings to you, the reader, and I will also have a journal for myself, to see what worked, and what did not work. I see this as a sort of experiment, which makes it more fun. My hypothesis is that having more structure in my studies will create a ripple effect, which will make me be more organized when working on my other goals (see my “impossible list”). Over the next few weeks leading up to this year’s final exams in May, I will try out different techniques, such as the Pomodoro technique and flashcards, and different settings and work environments, like working at libraries or cafés, and with and without a group or a partner. I hope that not only do I find out what works for me, but also that perhaps this will inspire someone else to do something similar and find out what works for him or her.

I hope this works.

– Benedicte

Taking on a new project

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