Coping with second term slump

June 07, 2022

The first term of any year at university can feel daunting.

New courses, new professors, maybe you have moved out of home, and everything is strange? No one in their right minds would ever resent the way you feel venturing out into unexplored territories. Now, a few months later, you are on your way and should be feeling settled in, but for some reason everything is feeling a little worse? Why is this happening? Surely, you should have everything together by now?

You may be surprised to hear that what is being described there is not something that is unique to you. Students have been complaining about the second term slump for years – a period in the middle of the year when all the excitement has worn off, but you still may not feel like you have found your place, or settled in. Never fear, like The Fields itself, this article is all about making you feel comfortable and will also help you understand what the second term slump is, and how to overcome it.

What is the second term slump?

The second term slump, otherwise referred to as “the second term blues” is a feeling that combines homesickness with plenty of doubt. With the excitement of the first section of the year having finished, you now have a clearer idea of what you are in for, but are still missing home and maybe, doubting your choices? Have you selected the right course? Are the friends you are making who you want to spend time with? Have you done as well as you hoped? And even, is university right for you?

It is natural after starting out on a new path to start questioning your choice to do so. Evaluating how things are going is a healthy and normal part of life. The problem with the second term slump is that it combines these questions with a good dose of home sickness, maybe a dash of loneliness and a feeling that you may already have seen all you are going to see. To top things off your marks may not be as high as you are used to back at school and the freedoms of university may be a little overwhelming. The friends you have made aren’t quite yet at that stage where you are as close as the friends back home, and so it’s natural to feel like you are grappling with a unique condition and have no one to talk to about it. So what can you do?

Evaluate your courses

This term is a good time to evaluate your course and what you are enjoying. At the beginning of university it’s natural to be excited that you will no longer have to study the things you didn’t like at school, but now perhaps you have found brand new subjects that aren’t as you imagined. On top of this, the professors in the courses tend to go slightly easier on students in the first term and things may have picked up speed. If you haven’t done as well as expected in term one it’s easy to take this as a sign that you can’t succeed and are drowning, leading to feelings of sadness or even depression.

The trick is to stop and take a close look at the courses you are doing. Focus on the ones that you actually enjoy. The ones you like doing are likely going to be the ones you take further, while the ones you don’t like, or are struggling with, are just a problem for this year. Evaluating just which courses you will be taking further, and taking stock of the fact that you are now the master of your academic ship helps give you the power to appreciate the freedom that academic life gives you rather than resent it. Knowing that the courses you don’t like will soon be over forever, while those you love will continue on into the future can give you excitement for the years of study ahead, while also helping you take on the ones you don’t like. If you just put your head down and see out the next few months, you need never do those courses again and there is great comfort in that.

Failure is as good as success for revealing your strengths. Learning from missed opportunities or errors will help you shape the future you want.

You aren’t your term one marks

As a student you are no doubt used to doing well at school. It can therefore come as something of a shock when you do badly at something at university. Studying at university is harder, more fast paced and requires a lot more self-control. At the same time as starting on this journey, you also changed where you lived, made new friends and embarked on a whole new direction for your life. Understanding that what you achieved, even if it’s less than what you are used to, is excellent under these circumstances is crucial if you are going to place those marks in their proper context.

You may be used to getting 80% while at home with people making you food, or giving you the support you need, but now you got 50% while doing it all yourself. That’s a huge accomplishment and the mark itself should not be the only way you evaluate your self-worth. Student life is a marathon, not a sprint, and there is plenty of time, now that you are more settled and ready, to start building that mark back up to what you are used to.

Prioritise self-care and mental health

Everyone feels lonely and sad from time to time. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by your choices and the lack of close friends and only natural to do so. If you are going to overcome your second term slump it’s therefore more critical than ever that you take care of your mental health and do the things that bring you joy. Finding time to exercise, take a walk in a beautiful park or go for dinner with your new companions is just as important as studying as it will keep you in the right frame of mind to tackle your problems head on. If you miss home, call your loved ones. They would love to hear from you, no matter how often you do it.

Now is also the time to reach out to those people you may have just met. Talking to the others, even if you don’t know them well, will help you realise you are not alone, help you work through your feelings, and as an added bonus, strengthen your relationships with them. If you find you are really struggling it can also help to reach out and speak to a counsellor – UP has a dedicated unit and website for Student Wellness. Your tutors and lecturers are also often willing to help and, have seen it all before. 

Push the limits

You may not have realised it yet but learning at university is very different to learning at school. While at school memorising dull facts is normal, at university students are expected to apply their knowledge and challenge the topic. Scoring great marks is about noticing things others haven’t noticed, coming up with successful, new ways to do things, or that challenge established knowledge. Once you realise this, it can be easy to develop a real passion for learning, speaking up and pushing the boundaries. Ask the difficult questions, challenge the professors and you will likely find that you are enjoying your courses that much more.

What you are actually feeling in the second term slump is not depression or fear, but also the realisation that you are being asked to change – to develop new patterns of thinking and chase larger, and loftier goals than you have thus far been used to. Humans are naturally resistant to change and that sense of discomfort can manifest as second term slump. Realising that this is what it is, can help you also overcome it, go with it and create the future you want. If you are staying at The Fields you are uniquely placed to overcome the second term slump. With biometric access, 24-hour security and a CCTV your peace-of-mind is of utmost importance. The Fields also includes the right blend of private spaces and communal areas, which allows you to be part of a community, while also getting the quiet study time you need to succeed. At the end of the day, it’s about feeling like you belong and nowhere does that better than The Fields. We are currently running an amazing promotion – JOIN THE FIELDS TODAY – where new tenants can win an electricity voucher worth R500. If you are an existing resident, you can also win by referring a friend who signs a new lease.

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