The Sophomore Slump
Story | Lian Szu-Jin, contributing reporter
Photo | Lian Szu-Jin, contributing reporter
Five weeks through. Twelve more to go. If you’re a sophomore going through the slump, this one’s for you.
These two weeks have been a challenge for many sophomores, with Modern Social Thought (MST) essays and Foundations of Science (FoS) projects running back to back, on top of co-curricular and non-school-related problems. Many of us share similar sentiments as Crystal Yong ’19, who said, “I have so much work to do but I don’t feel like doing any of them.” There are suddenly rows of empty seats during MST lectures. Professors comment about the drop in energy during classes. You tell yourself it is okay to skip a few seminars. Suddenly, college life is a chore.
This is not to say that everyone’s feeling the slump. A sophomore (who declined to be named in fear of losing his class credibility) said, “I’m too busy filling my schedule to feel it. Unfortunately, readings don’t fit very well into the picture.” There are also other sophomores like Jung Min Eun ’19, who claim to be coping sufficiently with the expectations of school to not feel the slump.
Peter Ooi ’18, who did not experience the slump, shares a different perspective. He said, “Maybe part of the problem is that people keep talking about the sophomore slump like it’s some quintessential part of being a sophomore, as if you must feel it to be counted as a real sophomore, or that only sophomores feel it. I had a challenging time through sophomore year too, but I didn’t see any reason to associate the stress with being a sophomore. I think the stress, tiredness and disillusionment may just be part and parcel of the college experience, not some phase which begins with sophomore year and passes with junior year. People will learn to deal with it at every stage in college.”
Unfortunately, many of us are cut from a different cloth. To solve the problem, we have to first diagnose it. Empathetic juniors (survivors of the slump), and Dean’s Fellow (DF) for Saga College Emeka Ojukwu shared some perspectives on the causes of the slump.
“There’s this realization of how much work college is actually going to be and how you have to be on top of your game from the very beginning.” –Mr. Ojukwu.
Mr. Ojukwu has observed over the years at Yale-NUS and from his own college experience that during sophomore year, the “new car feel” of being in college begins to wear off and there is “no natural excitement of being a sophomore.” We’re no longer wide-eyed first years who feel like everything is possible! Nor are we juniors who have our majors and future more or less figured out. We’re sophomores. Stuck in a zone of uncertainty. Worried about what clubs to drop. Anxious about internships, academics and building a portfolio for Study Abroad, concurrent degree programs, or that elusive future job.
The Common Curriculum adds to this anxiety. As Seow Yongzhi ’18 explained, “It is now much more rigorous, with increased expectations from not only the curriculum but the professors as well.” Adding to that, there are our own expectations to deal with. We start the year off wanting to do better academically, thinking that we have it better together after the trials of freshman year, but the increased academic rigor throws us off guard. The Common Curriculum has taken over. Every conversation seems to touch upon the despairs of FoS or Marx’s love of repetition.
“You’d think that the start of sophomore year would be this amazing reunion with your friends but it ends up being very anti-climatic instead.” – Gabe Ibasco ’18.
Some friendships do not get warmer over the summer and things are somehow no longer the same. The Class of ’19 probably feels this less than the Class of ’18 who shifted from close-knit Residential College 4 to the new campus during their sophomore year. However, the various changes in timetables, co-curricular commitments and suite arrangements still chill the warm bonds of familiarity and friendship built over our first year.
If the diagnosis has made you more depressed than you originally were, here is some advice from some juniors:
“Don’t put too much on your plate.” – Tong Xueyin ’18.
Tong felt that overcommitting to too many clubs made her forget the initial passion she had for them in the beginning. Seow shared similar sentiments, “After a certain point you have to realize what commitments you should drop and what to focus and do well in. Prioritize.” Here at Yale-NUS, there seems to be a culture where people overcommit to many things but under-commit to each commitment. How about doing a few things you enjoy, and doing them well for a change?
“Take some time to be alone. Especially at [Yale-NUS] where there’s this culture where you feel like there’s a need to constantly immerse yourself or contribute something to this small community.” – Ibasco.
Ibasco enjoys taking night walks to Sheng Siong to get out of school and spend some time reconnecting with himself. These walks were a suggestion from Health and Wellness, whom he encourages “slumpy” students to visit. He also found that doing mundane things like tracing buildings for his urban studies class helped him to get out of his head. Lastly, he emphasized how important it is to not be afraid to ask for time off from co-curriculars.
“Sleep is important but so underrated in this school.” – Ibasco.
The Yale Daily News would approve of Ibasco’s statement. In their recent article on unhealthy sleep culture, Paddy Gavin talked about how “many students saw sleep as the most disposable element of each school day”. With all the commitments, academic work and aspects of personal life to take care of, students start thinking that they’re doing something wrong if they get enough sleep. But sleep is important for de-stressing, concentration and most-importantly, your health.
“What this school needs is emotional honesty. Don’t be embarrassed about being upset about something. ” – Ibasco.
Ibasco recounts how people often say they’re okay when they’re not. Well, there are many reasons for not wanting to admit that you’re not okay. Firstly, you may not want to burden someone else who’s probably facing their own issues. Secondly, it takes too much effort to explain why you’re not okay, especially in the short span of an elevator ride. But what I’ve realized is that people here genuinely care when you’re upset about something. And you never know, perhaps the person you’re sharing with is facing the same problems as you. Don’t bottle it in, and as Ibasco put it, “It’s okay to admit that you’re not okay.”
“Get out of the YNC bubble.” – Ibasco.
There are many reasons and ways to get out of the Yale-NUS bubble. Ibasco found that in this small community, it’s very easy to latch on to negativity. There is a need to get out of your own bubble within the College itself. “You need to realize that your small group of friends aren’t [sic] always representative of the whole batch. It’s very easy to just wallow in self-pity with your own slumpy friends but that’ll just create a self-perpetuating cycle of negativity.” Tong suggested a change of environment that helped her “snap out of this toxic environment” where school life overlaps with private life.
“Don’t worry; the light is at the end of the tunnel!” – Ibasco.
With no FoS next semester and the greater freedom to choose courses of your interest, things are going to get a lot better. “Sophomores did begin wondering if they made the right option [sic] coming to this school, especially when the Common Curriculum wasn’t what they expected. But the Common Curriculum doesn’t showcase how good faculty actually is. With the Common Curriculum, the professors have to cover a lot within a short period of time. For courses like FoS, they have to simplify things that can’t really be simplified and that’s a challenge. Level 3000 and 4000 courses will make you realize how good the [professors] are.” Ibasco also suggested exploring NUS courses or courses that might not have anything to do with your major but everything to do with your interests—truly embracing the spirit of the liberal arts. “There’s so much more freedom and perspective in the second semester. Things will pick up. Don’t worry; you’ll get out of it.”