Midterm Meltdowns at UCI

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Writers talk about their worst meltdowns in college.

by Lilith Martirosyan

I’m a firm believer in an old adage: “When the going gets tough, you suck it up and deal with it till the quarter’s end.” But my God, fall quarter of 2016 could not end soon enough!

Over the course of last quarter, my skin grew pale from fear, my eye bags turned a deep shade of blue and my hair fell out in thick clumps. I like to think I was running on sheer willpower and coffee, although the latter seemed less effective than in prior quarters.

Each day, I would return home in an emotional state, longing for the quarter’s conclusion and an end to my misery. What forced my heart to pound rigorously, shortened my breath to quick pants and initiated a deep throbbing within my skull? It was none other than an infamous UCI math class.

As a business administration major, math is required to be completed at the end of sophomore year. I had successfully avoided enrollment during my freshman year, and I wonder now if that was the reason I carried a more positive, upbeat demeanor back then. Nevertheless, I knew I couldn’t avoid the class forever.

The beginning of the quarter allowed me to contemplate how I would manage my time. Math, being the only class requiring my presence on campus, seemed to promise time for studying, working, or reconnecting with friends. My fear began to decline, perhaps too soon, for that day I saw the course syllabus.

The breakdown of grades will forever be ingrained in my brain, and my eyes can never unsee the horrors that the next three months would bring: homework (10 percent), midterm one (20 percent), midterm two (20 percent) and final exam (50 percent). Each Friday marked another quiz, and the joys of a long-awaited weekend diminished.

Math was never my strong suit, and having completed calculus over two years ago, I was a bit rusty. I had to relearn the basics of calculus and build my way up again.  

My professor’s teaching methods did not coincide well with my learning style, leaving me in a state of panic and confusion. The course’s pace rapidly accelerated. Condensing a year’s worth of calculus into ten weeks seemed impossible. I sought out the help of other professors, hoping that their notes or videos would allow the material to finally click, but after multiple failed attempts, I had given up.

I longed for an outlet for my anger and hatred toward the course, but being rather shy and quiet, it seemed out of place to make such a fuss. Having no release, I’d wake up dreading class and would later return home frustrated at my inability to grasp even the simplest of concepts. Mentally, I had experienced my worst meltdown. I longed to scream out in rage and break down in tears. I kept picturing my GPA drop and saw my acceptances into my dream graduate programs fade away.

A friend referred me to one last professor, and it was as if a spark was finally lit. This professor had simplified the lesson’s core and maintained a relatively slow pace throughout the quarter. Math felt exciting once more. Homework became a bit more bearable, and I began to understand theories presented in discussion.

For ten weeks I hated my life. In those ten weeks, I cycled through four professors. Out of those four, I finally found one capable of clearly articulating important theories and procedures. Want to know the best part? That was just ONE of the TWO math classes needed to fulfill my prerequisites. Another quarter of math awaits in spring. Wish me luck.

by Daisy Murguia

Coming into college, I knew mental breakdowns would be a part of my experience. Campus culture encourages a lot of pressure to get good grades, be involved and make time for friends. I am a person who stresses easily over small things, so it was clear to me that bigger things like finals and midterms would be causes for mental breakdowns.

Mental breakdowns are when you reach your breaking point and feel emotional, stressed and overwhelmed. Although I have experienced various — and almost weekly — mental breakdowns throughout my time here, none compare to the day of my first Humanities Core midterm. It was one of those days where everything went absolutely wrong.

I remember that two nights before I was supposed to be studying, my friends had been in my room all night. For some reason, we all convinced ourselves that a ghost was in our room, and we all got very scared. They stayed in my room until around 3 a.m. I clearly remember thinking to myself that I should’ve been studying for my midterm that was less than two days away. I was sleep-deprived starting from that night, and that is when everything began to go downhill.

The day of my first midterm came, and I had not studied for more than five minutes. I stressed so heavily that day in my first lecture, knowing that after it ended, I would only have less than two hours to study. I remember running home after my lecture because I just wanted to get to my room and cram.

On my way to my room, I passed the Student Center, where many booths were set up. I was stopped by a friendly guy who lured me into signing up to donate bone marrow. I sat down to do all the paperwork needed to donate, but in the back of my mind all I could think about was my impending doom, because I was wasting precious study time.

I then tried to get out of donating, but a young woman volunteer kept repeating to me, “Why are you doubtful? Why are you questioning donating to this cause?” In that moment, I got very stressed because I had a very important test that I needed to study for, but instead I was here being pressured into donating by a persistent volunteer. My eyes began to water a little because I did not like the tone I was being spoken to in, or the way in which I was being forced to continue my donation paperwork.

In that moment, I remember feeling like I had lost control over my life and my own body. Finally though, it was over, and I walked quickly to my room. I had wasted over twenty minutes at the booth, so now I had exactly one hour to study. In that very short amount of time, I remember having one of my worst mental breakdowns. I was tired, defeated, sleep-deprived and feeling like a failure.

Most of my mental breakdowns in my first quarter of college related to bad grades or simply feeling as if I did not have enough time to study. When I was at my lowest points, I also began to think of all the disadvantaged areas of my life. I came from a high school where few people went to college, and I felt overall misunderstood and alone. It was in my worst breakdowns that I questioned my intelligence and whether I was really good enough to be here.

Even though these breakdowns were my lowest points, they always taught me a lot about myself. I just had to remind myself that everything would be fine, and that I belonged. More importantly, I had to remind myself that all of my stress would be worth it in the end, and that these mental breakdowns would not break me.

by Summer Wong

Every college student has had their breakdowns, and while I’ve had my fair share of stressed times, this quarter has been especially hard for me.

Under the pressure of getting into a good medical school in the future, I have been taking sixteen units of classes and aiming for nothing less than an A in each one. I have been a research assistant for the Akbari Neurology Lab at the UCI Medical School, with a minimum commitment of twenty hours of intense work each week. I had an internship at the UCI Medical Center, with each shift lasting almost nine hours a week. I spent my Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays as an officer for the badminton club sports team, and lately, we’ve been spending weekends in different states for competition. To add onto that, I write for the New University and volunteer in the emergency room at the UCI Medical Center. I have been extremely home-sick and worried about my parents’ well-being back at home. And I’ve recently gone through a break-up, an incident that consumed me with so much anger and frustration that it’s been difficult for me to let go.

While most people’s weekends this past quarter consisted of a day at the beach or at the mall, mine were spent in my room studying at least fifteen hours a day. I didn’t take a break unless it was to eat dinner or to shower. I hardly slept in, and coffee had become my best friend. My friends often texted me and asked to hang out, and every time I was compelled to decline. Later, I would check their Snapchat stories and regret not going out. I spent a lot of my time alone with a book, and it was definitely lonely at times. To top everything off, I had also injured my back in a badminton competition in Seattle, and had to go to physical therapy for several hours each day, consuming time that I could not afford to waste.

This quarter has been overwhelming, to say the least. I’ve had hidden, quiet meltdown periods in my room or behind the Ayala Science Library where I just curled into a ball and had panic moments. All I wanted to do in those moments was lie in the hot sand on the beach, or go on a date to the movies, or spend time with my friends. But I knew I had work to do.

In the end, I know everything I’m doing is an investment in potentially rewarding future, and that’s what keeps me going.

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