Enduring the effects of second-semester syndrome

March 18, 2021 — by Jason Cheng
tired-desk (jason c)

Why does second semester feel so much longer than first semester?

It’s almost been a year of online learning. In many ways, our daily habits over Zoom have completely changed from where we were around this time in 2020, but one thing still remains certain: the dreaded second semester experience.

In terms of hours, the school year is equally split into the first and second semesters, yet the latter seems to drag on for longer than it actually does. Of course, there’s no such thing as a “longer half,” but it sure does feel that way, especially since second semester does span across an additional month. 

The breaks between six-week grading periods and those scattered throughout the months contribute to this effect. While it’s important to take breaks every now and then, they add up to an entire extra month in school. 

These breaks are somewhat disturbing to the routine I’ve had to build up in the previous six weeks. I can never truly adapt to one schedule without having to flip-flop between school days and breaks. 

Moreover, by the time summer break is around the corner, the sunny weather matches the spirited morale that spreads throughout the school, and this type of weather contributes to a student’s elevated motivation and energy. For me, trying to wake up to a gloomy, cloudy sky rather than sunshine makes me want to stay in bed and feel unproductive overall. 

Second semester starting in January means that we start off with gloominess — not the most attractive prospect for all my night owls just returning from break. The first six-week period back is the toughest transition period for me, and it’s only the beginning of a prolonged second semester. 

But it’s not all about timing. First semester is a time to settle into our new classes and grow accustomed to the new environments. Everything is brand new, and we’re getting a fresh start to the new school year.

But by the time second semester rolls around, there’s nothing new when we come back from winter break. It’s the same classes, same teachers and same classmates. This monotony contributes to the perception of an elongated semester.

To make things worse, second-semester material is usually more difficult than first-semester content. Because students have a clear understanding of our teachers’ policies by this time of year, grading also becomes less lenient. 

Especially in a distance-learning context, school has begun to feel repetitive and draining. With essentially the same routines as before, it’s easy to lose focus or motivation at any point in time.

Personally, my motivation has practically halved ever since the semester started. It’s been a much larger struggle to push myself to do homework on a daily basis. Many of us have begun to feel burned out.

To counter this ordeal, I’ve built up a daily routine, scheduling out what I want to accomplish each day. In a way, I can stay on track with all the activities I’m juggling while saving time to relax and pursue some hobbies.

Motivation is key at this time of year. It’s important to stay healthy and focused; sleep and social activity are crucial to a successful second semester, and we should stay mindful of our health at all times. 

Not to mention, we’ve lost countless hours that we would normally spend on in-person social activity. We’ve had to cope with a secluded reality that isn’t what human beings are built for, and we’ve learned to cherish the little moments in times like these. 

In the end, the rewards of completing second semester are second to none, and as the pandemic fades (we hope), we can treat ourselves to a summer break of social activity to end our misery. It’s natural to see second semester as a grueling experience, especially in current circumstances, but our mindset has to be that it’s only going to get better from here.


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