Sleep, Multilingualism, and the Sophomore Slump

I haven’t had much time this semester to sit down and just relax; as is the case with most Amherst students, running around between classes and assignments and activities is, quite frankly, stressful. There are times in which my desire to watch that episode of Modern Family that I missed outweighs my desire to finish a mundane assignment, and I, like many others, am guilty of sometimes questioning the relevance of the reading for tomorrow’s class. But even though I know I won’t get a break until Thanksgiving, I can’t afford to take a breather, simply because slowing down obviously means that I would fall behind on my work.

Now that I’m halfway through the first semester of my sophomore year, I have the luxury to reflect upon what worked last year and what didn’t. Although, yes, it’s very cliché for me to talk about how fast the semester has been going by and how, before I know it, I’ll be on my way home after finals, my ever-expanding to-do lists and my impending second round of midterms are forcing me to ponder the age-old question affecting college sophomores everywhere: does the sophomore slump exist?

I’m honest enough with myself to say that all of my pressure and stress is entirely my fault, and that if there’s anyone to blame for my sophomore slump, it isn’t Amherst, it isn’t my advisor, and it isn’t my mother: it’s me.

At the end of my first year, I resolved to reevaluate my Amherst experience to ensure that I would get the most out of my time and education here. Like every college student everywhere, I made unrealistic goals, being made idealistically right before summer, that wouldn’t be met. I also told myself that I would vow to ensure that I would never, ever again have a semester in which all four of my classes met on the same one day.

Fast-forward to the beginning of this school year, new and fresh and reevaluated and ready to go. After dropping some activities, only to pick up a few new, more time-consuming activities in their place, I began my sophomore year in full force, with, as you would have it, all four of my classes now meeting on the same day not once, but twice each week. This is entirely my fault, since a last minute course change (for which I was advised against doing) not only forced the four-classes-a-day thing on me, but it also forced the speak-three-languages-a-day thing on me.

Studying two languages at once is hard, and it demands a significant time commitment; choosing to study two languages has definitely been an eye-opener, and although luckily I don’t find myself confusing Chinese and German too much (although I oddly confused German and Latin a few days ago #tbt high school), the days in which I have both Chinese and German classes are exhausting. Good thing, then, that I prioritized sleep this semester. In another #tbt moment, I’ve established a bedtime for myself during the week: at 11:00 pm, I drop everything and go to bed, waking up eight hours later to eat a good breakfast before class. Being strict with myself about getting enough sleep at night, and not adhering to my sleep schedule only when absolutely necessary, has made me much more productive, since I know that a good night’s rest will reward my day of hard work.

So between taking out time every day for class and enough sleep, and factoring in the amount of time required to learn two new languages, any extra time I have is limited, busy, and stressful; especially because I have two other classes and other activities to worry about, and since the expectation of constantly doing work looms over me, sometimes I wonder if I’m unfairly targeted by the sophomore slump.

Of course, there always seems to be a million other things I could be doing at any given time. I could be outside, enjoying the last few weeks of nice autumn weather, exploring the running trails; I could be taking a weekend trip to Boston; I could be catching up on Downton Abbey or watching an opera Live in HD at the Hampshire Mall. But instead, I find myself sitting on my bed in my room, with my television staring at me, laughing at me, my open window teasing me, reminding me that I chose to do all that I do: it’s my fault.

Have I fallen ill with a case of the sophomore slump? I don’t think so; after all, other survivors have ensured me that the sophomore slump is a myth anyway. But unlike the emphasis on the transition from high school to college, nobody talks about the transition from freshman year to sophomore year: sophomores are suddenly expected to take harder classes, declare a major, decide on studying abroad, begin looking for career-focused internships. And that’s a lot of pressure to put on someone who is trying to keep up with school as it is. Yes, we’re Amherst students, we can handle it like many before us have, but I know I’m not alone in saying that it would be nice to have a break from everything every once in a while.

With next semester’s classes already published online, my tentative schedule for the Spring requires me to attend all four classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 8:30 am until 1:00 pm with no break. Clearly I haven’t learned anything from the past two and a half semesters here, and if this doesn’t prevent my sophomore slump, I don’t know what will.