Photographer:Fotograaf: Simone Golob
You may have heard on the news that many students feel pressured, stressed or anxious. Are you afraid that will happen to you too? Don’t panic! We have laid out a plan – follow these tips and you will be one relaxed first-year student.
How do I study for an exam?
“Time management is essential,” says Lorena Ortiz Cabrero, a third-year student at University College Maastricht and member of the Peer Point service (see box) in the previous academic year. “Start studying on time and make a realistic schedule. Studying with flashcards and mind maps works best. Write down a concept on one side of the flashcard and the explanation – or whatever you want to remember – on the other side. Make a stack and test yourself. A big mind map works best if you want to remember and see how theories are linked. I often have students coming in who know the different theories by heart, but don't know how they are linked.”
Where do I study?
“In general, I would recommend studying in the library or in one of the other study places, because there is really a study vibe there. Only if people tell me that they can’t concentrate because they are always talking with friends, I recommend studying at home. Keep in mind that at home there are some limitations: You can’t always reach the online databases at home and you probably won’t have as many books as in the library, ha ha.”
“When the library is full, you can go to plenty of other study places: Tapijn, Student Service Centre, UM Sports, the faculties and of course the public library. I find it hard to imagine that you wouldn't be able to find a study place at all.”
How do I write a paper?
“Don’t start writing immediately. There is a research and a writing phase. Do your research thoroughly. If you start writing too soon, you’ll miss parts of your arguments or it simply won’t make sense. Also, it’s very important to keep track of your research. Simply writing down which articles you’ve looked at, with a hyperlink, will do. If you want, you can add a small summary.
Tips for the actual writing process would be to always keep you research question in mind. Every paragraph should somehow relate to your research question and only use one idea per paragraph. Be specific, not too broad. Furthermore, it’s very handy to open a tab with words that are linked to make your text run smoothly and a tab for synonyms, so your text won’t get boring by using the same words over and over again.”
How to relax?
“When you have finished your scheduled work stop and do something relaxing. Try not to relax in the library or other study places. Go somewhere where there’s no study atmosphere. I personally enjoy watching Netflix, reading (unrelated to the uni), going to the cinema, listening to some music or you could go to an event, there is always something to do in Maastricht.”
How do I prevent stress?
“Before you start you should have a very clear overview of what you need to do. Make a realistic schedule and if you fall behind, reorganize and prioritize. Accept that you cannot read everything about a topic. Skim the abstracts and conclusions of the articles that you have to read and pick out the most important parts.”
I got a 4 for my exam, now what?
“Go talk to your teacher and discuss your study method. Find out what your weakness is and work on that. In my experience, teachers are happy to help you change your approach.”
What is the biggest pitfall?
“Definitely procrastination. If you don’t understand the material, go to your teacher or one of your fellow students. You will not get it by just waiting. If you hate the subject, see if you can drop the course and do a different one. If not, you have to plough through it. Just begin, there is no other way.”
Feeling stressed – a millennials’ problem?
Why is it specifically this generation of students who feel under pressure? Peter Muris, professor of Developmental Psychopathology at Maastricht University, notices that young people have enormously high expectations of their studies: “Everyone wants to get high marks, graduate cum laude, go abroad, have a rich social life, sit on a board, play sports. They’re all students, they work together if they have to, but when it comes down to it, they’re very focused on their own opportunities and grades.”
The role of parents should not be underestimated. “They want their child to be important, exceptional even, and in that sense, they stimulate that competitive element,” Muris says. Not to mention the influence of social media: “You can constantly see what others are doing and compare yourself to them. People send all kinds of upbeat messages and beautiful photos out into the world, as if nobody’s ever having a bit of a dip. To match up to that picture of others, you put more pressure on yourself. Of course, you can decide not to participate, but that’s hard. It starts as early as puberty. It’s natural to want to be part of the group.”
Finally, students are under pressure to choose the right study programme. With the binding study advice and student loans that need to be paid back, there’s no time to make the wrong decision.
So, don’t compare yourself too much to others, stay focused on what you want out of life, talk to someone if you need advice and find out if you’re eligible for financial aid if you need it.
Where to go for help
Peer Point is a free student-to-student service that helps students with academic research. Writing, searching for information and data, studying, planning, are all things Peer Point can help you with. They have walk-in sessions every day in both the inner city and the Randwyck Library and can also be reached via Facebook (www.facebook.com/peerpoint) and email (firstname.lastname@example.org). If they don’t know how to help you, they can put you in contact with the right library specialist. Keep in mind that they only give advice; they won’t do the work for you.
Heart to Heart is a peer-coaching system through which students (after being trained by psychological counsellors) provide help to other students who struggle with mental health issues, whether small or big. email@example.com
The InnBetween (Student Chaplaincy) is an open student community that comes together to have meaningful experiences. They are driven by spirituality and organise events & projects focused on sustainability, arts & culture, science, social responsibility and community. www.innbetween.nl
Each faculty has its own student adviser(s). The student adviser knows a lot about the possibilities within your study programme and faculty. He or she will help you determine how you can shape your study to your advantage. The student adviser will coach you and help you to make the right choices. He or she may also refer you to somebody else who can help you progress further. This could be a student dean, pastor, coach, a fear-of-failure expert, psychological counsellor or a doctor. Check https://www.maastrichtuniversity.nl/support/during-your-studies/student-guidance/study-advisers to find out how to contact your student adviser.
Psychological counsellors can help you with psychological problems and complaints such as anxieties, feelings of guilt, gloominess, stress symptoms, lack of self-confidence, difficulties making or keeping contact, problems and conflicts with parents, family or friends (boyfriend/girlfriend), or if you're having trouble dealing with a death. Contact one of the psychological counsellors, available Monday and Thursday between 16:00 and 16:30: +31 43 388 52 12
Student deans give information and advice about your legal position as a student. The student deans work throughout the entire university and are independent. They will be glad to help you find a solution. Naturally, all the information you share with a student dean will be treated confidentially. firstname.lastname@example.org