By SONG Yungya (Residence Tutor, Hall 9)


For quite a few research degree students from China's mainland, feelings of stress often hang in the air. Just one week left to fit in three papers and four presentations, dozens of undergrad final exams still ungraded: this is the mountain facing PhD students at the end of each semester, which is typically the time of the year that the pressure starts to build. Even in everyday life, difficulties with languages can be two-fold. Trying to speak, read and write in English for seemingly endless research tasks is always a daunting challenge, though that does not necessarily make the learning of Cantonese seem easy by comparison. Although feeling a little stress can motivate you to study hard, stressing out too much is a different story. Stress overload just tiptoes in when you feel that the demands that are being made on you are beyond your reach.

What exactly is the antidote to juggling work and study and tackling that pile of papers and lecture notes? To give up Cantonese learning for the sake of reading one more book, or to give up your sports hobby for the sake of writing one more paper? Spending four or five hours a week learning Cantonese or doing sports sounds like a long time, but it's really nothing in comparison to the world that opens up. It is like growing wings, or being born into another existence, as more often than not these activities refresh your mind when you do not have a clue in your research.

The correct answer should be somewhere else. Since we can't do everything at once, we can simply give ourselves a time budget and plan our activities. Don't try to be perfect— no one is. As the Chinese adage goes, the longest journey starts with a single step. "Perfection is the enemy of good", especially when it prevents you from starting. Just start to make a to-do list every day, and for each step you make, don't forget to reward yourself with something, say, a piece of cheese cake or a whole box of ice-cream. Last but not least, fun deserves a place in your calendars. Your brain needs rest to perform at its peak. Take time to breathe a breath, take a walk, ride a bike, or do other things you enjoy. It is important to waste time once in a while. May we do more, in less time!