First-year undergraduate students face midterm mayhem

November 12, 2021
Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes

C/O Ainsley Thurgood

An examination of testimonies from freshmen across different first-year majors

By: Kirsten Espe, Contributor

Over the past few months, McMaster University students faced the daunting task of preparing and completing their midterms for their selected courses. For many first-year undergraduate students, this was the first high-stakes assessment they have had since the beginning of 2020 — almost two years ago. 

Ariana Petrazzini, a first-year health sciences student, said that like most other Ontarian high schools, her exams were cancelled. Petrazzini also noted that her quizzes were mostly open book. 

“The content itself wasn’t necessarily easier, but the teachers did go a little bit softer and gave us more time than usual,” said Petrazzini.  

On the other hand, Veronica Larrazabal Zea, a first-year integrated biomedical engineering and health sciences student, continued to have class exams in high school. 

Although Larrazabal Zea felt more prepared for the testing aspect of university midterm season, she highlighted that she found it difficult to adapt to the increase in class work due to the implemented ‘quadmester’ system last year. 

“It was really weird because it was one week, one class, all day for a week and then another class, all day, for a week,” said Larrazabal Zea. 

Now, Larrazabal Zea’s classes have increased to a simultaneous seven upon enrolment into her program. 

Sharanya Badalera, a first-year social sciences student, says that the lack of exams in high school was not the only factor that threw her for a loop coming to McMaster. 

“Online [learning] is just way less engaging and it’s really easy to get distracted . . . You’re missing the social interaction with your teachers and your classmates. It’s a really important part of learning that I didn’t realize,” said Badalera.  

Badalera points out, however, that many students have gotten used to online learning, especially when accessing teachers during online office hours and having recorded lectures, both of which could be considered positive and negative. 

“With the chat, I feel like you’re interacting more, but once you go back in-person [it won’t be the same],” explained Badalera. 

All three students expressed their concern for the winter semester, which was just recently announced to be fully in-person. 

“I don’t know if they’re going to just do a 180 degree entirely and try to do exactly what they used to do before COVID . . . That's just a little stressful. [People have] changed their studying habits to fit the kind of tests and assessments that we have,” said Larrazabal Zea.

Petrazzini had a similar experience. 

“I was probably a better student in grade 11 than grade 12, where it was easier to slack off,” said Petrazzini.  

Indeed, many students echo the sentiment that their education constantly evolves to changing expectations.

“Learning is a changing thing and your learning is not going to be constant. You have to adapt to it,” said Badalera. 

All three first-year students pointed out that they are all striving to adjust well to the university experience. This is not uncommon for most first-year students, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the online environment do entail unprecedented complications for current freshmen. 

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