Sophomore year is OVER! Woo! Let’s just begin by saying… sophomore slump is such a real thing. As you guys may have remember, I ended sophomore year first semester on a bit of a “down” note. Second semester was a ton better, and I think I learned a lot of lessons on avoiding burnout, being healthy and happy, and of course letting go of the things that aren’t making me happy. I think I emerged from sophomore year a little bit more jaded, (definitely not the same happy-go-lucky freshman I was a year ago! ha!), but also a little bit more wise, and a little bit more hopeful [than last semester, definitely!]. So this blog post is about change and how I kind of turned my sophomore year around.

One big thing that contributed to my success and happiness this semester was re-joining the orchestra and picking up piano again. Last semester, I was not in the orchestra and felt uprooted from a community standpoint. I never knew I had such a deep connection with the community of musicians, but apparently, I did. This semester, with rejoining the orchestra, it was like I rediscovered that community and found so many new friendships. It’s almost counterintuitive because essentially I “lose” several hours a week to rehearsal when I could be studying (a big reason I left the orchestra last semester was because I thought that time could be better spent resting or focusing on schoolwork), but those hours fostered new friendships and those hours were the few hours when I could relax and enjoy the music. Plus, eating meals with members of the orchestra, or going to concerts with them, or even just having to wake up early for a random 10am Saturday rehearsal (that I know I complain about but in retrospect realize it’s not all too bad) really ended up giving me some pretty great friendships.

I did a few things to keep myself accountable throughout the semester, and that helped as well with turning my year around. At the beginning of the semester, I set goals in my bullet journal. These goals included anything from academic goals (a specific GPA) to personal goals (to take care of myself and not burn out). Then, every Sunday (well, almost every Sunday!), I “checked in” with myself. In a separate notebook, I wrote down how I am doing with each of my 5 goals, and what I would need to do if I felt like that week didn’t get me closer to each goal. And by the end of the semester, I have achieved every single one of those goals. I did the best I’ve done in my four semesters at Cornell–all As while taking 22 credits (the most I’ve ever done so far), a part-time job, and a TA-position in statistics on top of that. And somehow still got 7 or 8 hours of sleep per night. Grades wise, I felt like Cornell punched me in the gut (repeatedly) freshman year, and on the mental health front, Cornell practically strangled me last semester. Funny how on my most academically rigorous semester, I decide to maybe figure this “school” thing out. (Perhaps this is a fluke though. We’ll see… next semester.) I think this is a system I will keep for the rest of my academic career (and perhaps into my professional career too~) as it has made a really positive difference in my academic and personal life.

And lastly? I dropped the things that were running me to the ground. I got sick a whopping four times the first semester of sophomore year. Even for cold, icky Ithaca, that’s… not normal. I was stressed, unhappy, underappreciated, and burned out most of last semester, and though it was a difficult decision to drop a few things and prioritize (for a change, ha!), I knew something had to change if I wanted to do well (mentally, physically, academically, emotionally!) at Cornell on the long term. And those decisions made a world of difference.

Sophomore year was hard. The first half was incredibly rocky. But the second half? Infinitely better. It wasn’t all butterflies and rainbows; I had my challenges and I had some tough days, but it just shows we can turn things around. If we’re active about that change we want to make in ourselves. If we’re active about holding ourselves accountable in our goals. If we’re active about continuing to do the things we love and not doing so much of the things that are running us down (unfortunately not always possible–but this semester I learned that it’s usually more possible than you think it is!).

I’m hoping this summer and my junior year will be a good one. Sophomore year turned out not to be so terrible, after all.

a more ‘fun’ sophomore year blog post with pictures & everything will be coming soon ^^