PROFESSOR ANITA WOODS

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One of my hardest failures happened after the first midterm in the second-year cell biology course that I was enrolled in. I had studied and gone to classes, but I still failed badly (I think the grade was a 40%?). It was also not my first failure on a university exam, but I certainly wasn’t used to doing so poorly since high school was really not challenging for me. I was so shaken by how badly I had done again and how much better my classmates had done that I truly considered leaving my program.

I was at a crossroads and considered everything from hairdressing school to a year abroad. The blame however was on me, because when I really thought about it, studying was last minute, I half-heartedly attended lectures and allowed myself far too many distractions. I decided I needed to change how I prioritized my time and stop wasting the little time there was. If I was going to study, it had to be productive and intense. If I was going to take a night off and see friends, I wasn’t going to allow myself to feel guilty for that break and just enjoy the reward of being with people. I disciplined myself to not put studying off to the last minute and I was much more reflective in my learning while I attempted to really learn the concepts. Studying like that was hard work because it was focused. It was also hard to say no to things that I sometimes would have rather wanted to do. I still allowed myself breaks to take care of myself by working out, made sure I actually got a decent night sleep, but I definitely still built in little rewards to keep motivated for the semester. But the effort worked, and I finally succeeded in a way that I had hoped. I also was less stressed and had less anxiety around my exams because I knew I had put in my best efforts. Success on that final exam was a game changer, because it finally gave me the confidence to know that I did indeed belong at University, and that I was a capable student.

Failure is definitely not rare for me. I used to be ashamed of my failures, but I have learned that those failures didn’t define who I was. I have also reflected on my reactions to those failures and that has reminded me that I am a strong person and that I have the drive to do better. Unfortunately, failure hasn’t stopped for me, and have experienced some of the hardest failures of my academic career in the last year. But I have hope, that like my undergraduate years, that I can rise above these moments.