Daigaku Z: Storm Warning

Daigaku Z:

Daigaku Z is a weekly column describing Z’s journey to learn the Japanese language while at the University of Pittsburgh. She impressed the East Asian Language and Literature department with her first-year performance, but she stumbled over the summer semester’s Accelerated Program course. Still, she is nothing if not persistent, and now she faces the second year of the program once more. This is (the continuation of) her story.

It’s been a bit of a rough week for the OTDT crew, and while I would love to dish about everything that’s going on, unfortunately I’m not at liberty to discuss a significant part of it. Rather than just leave you hanging with that news, what I can say to put you all at ease is that we are doing everything within our power to ensure that this is as bad as it gets. It’s all upside from here. We hope.

The situation is not what I want to talk about, but rather a common symptom of having to deal with the world’s stresses while going through college: the problem of panic. The first time I went through college, those four years were some of the strangest of my life in terms of life upheaval. And yes, I count coming out as not nearly as chaotic as my first trip. A lot happened throughout the span from ’98 to ’02, not least of which was 9/11.

College is a time of foreshortened adolescence: we still have some of the supports that we did during our standard schooling, but we are edging our way into the world and facing all that it can bring to bear against us. In times of peace it’s a scary prospect. We have not seen times of peace for a very long time. More than that, we are facing an untenable situation when we get out– the Economic Policy Institute estimates that for those of us who graduated this past spring, over 7% of us face total unemployment while an additional 15% face underemployment (working while not being able to find a job in our fields, or not being able to find a full-time job). That’s a 1-in-5 chance that your college degree is of little to no help in finding work. No wonder people stress out.

So it’s probably no surprise that stress is a major factor in dealing with college life. The pressures of both our present and our future– balancing study with work in internships or self-directed projects– drain our capacity to handle them faster than we can restore them. As a matter of fact, restoration is often completely disregarded when planning things out; sleep is the most obvious sacrifice, but even hobbies and down-time get dropped from the schedule when things get busy. My freshman semester at school was a nightmare, as I had the brilliant idea to not bring any of my game consoles. This led to soul-destroying Sunday afternoons, when all of my work was done and I had pent-up stress.

Pitt is moving into its mid-term week now, and so there are a lot of students freaking out over the possibility of blowing out their entire semester’s grades on one bad performance. I’d be lying if I said I was free of stress about my own exams starting tomorrow. But the thing to remember is that at the end of the day, the time that you spend relaxing and resting is just as important as the time you spend studying and cramming. Americans in particular are conditioned to feel guilty about spending time “non-productively”. This is something that needs to be fixed, but not today. Today, it’s Netflix and chilled drinks.