Study Secrets

Author: Maggie Cammaroto

‘Tis the season of exams. What a marvelous time! If you’re reading this, you may be processing a lot of endings at the moment. Perhaps not only are classes finishing up, but also your time studying abroad. On top of that, we are all coming to terms with the final few days of 2023. During this flurry of final exams & final goodbyes, it may be hard to find our footing and settle down to study. Time to check out out study secrets…

Believe it or not, we were once in your shoes. We’ve been on the struggle bus of finding the time/space/energy to put the rest of our exciting lives down in order to write that history paper or study for that chem final. But not to worry! We’ve been on the struggle bus long enough to figure out how to get off with study secrets. Without further ado, we present to you…mindhamok’s study secrets – tips & tricks to revolutionize the study experience & your GPA.

  • A seed in the sun will grow to be strong.

December is Intellectual Wellness Month here at mindhamok! Last month, we journeyed into Environmental Wellness, which goes not only for the health of our natural environment, but for our personal environments, as well. As we seek out spots to study, let’s take a note from November. In fact, we talked all about creating an ideal study space in our November newsletter. Here’s the gist: seek out a study nook that is clean & bright. Natural light (i.e. from the sun!) is super powerful.

Try placing your desk next to a window (psssst – we shared this hack and so many others on our TikTok). Or experiment with adding a splash of color – red &  yellow to promote creativity, or purple & green to support tranquility for study secrets. Clear the clutter, light a candle, put on some classical music or soft jazz. It’s the little things that can transform any space into our cozy corner of knowledge.

  • Know thyself.

Let me tell you a funny story about how I nearly failed AP US History. Picture this: freshman year of high school. I had to beg & plead to be put in my first AP (advanced placement AKA college-level) class instead of the honors version. I was ready…or so I thought. Immediately, dates & names were flying all over the place. Fear not! For I had ~the textbook~ which I diligently read, fervently highlighted, and even took extra care to copy down exactly what was written into pages & pages of notes.

But nothing could prepare me for our first test (bum bum BUMMM). Turns out, memorizing the dates & names was just step one. To knock it out of the park, I had to understand deeper historical processes, which my highlighting & word-for-word notes did not help me with in the slightest. “There has to be something I’m missing,” I thought.

I was missing a big something indeed, something a wise Greek man once said: “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” This is especially true when it comes to learning. We don’t all learn the same way. Some of us are visual learners and we digest information best when it’s presented in graphics. Others of us are auditory learners and we need to hear the information to process it. Still others have a reading/writing preference and must tackle new topics through those tools. And finally, we have kinesthetic learners that work best when the information is embodied.

For example, my sister Claire is an auditory learner. Throughout doctorate school, she listened to lectures on walks or while she was washing dishes. And she passed with flying colors! My brother Dominic is a kinesthetic learner. He’s studying to be a marine engineer and has really excelled in his classes since he’s gotten his hands on real equipment. I have a reading/writing preference.

You might be thinking “But hey! You were reading & writing!” Yes, observant reader, I was indeed reading & writing, but I wasn’t doing it in the right way. Once I understood the secret sauce in step three below, I consistently aced tests, thrived in over 10 AP classes, and attended my dream university. Once you figure out your learning style, you will flourish, too!

  • If you can teach it, you know it.

Here’s another silly little story for you. Growing up, I didn’t play with Legos or Barbies. Instead, when I wanted to have some real fun, I got out my EXPO markers and pretended to teach a class. I’d write down an objective and an agenda just like I saw my elementary school teachers do. I would take the topics I happen to be learning at that moment – long division, ecosystems, limericks – and wax on about it to my imaginary students. Flash forward many years. I’m studying organic chemistry and nothing (and I mean nothing) makes sense. So one Sunday afternoon, I take all my notes into an empty classroom and begin to channel 8-year-old me. I start hacking away at the cloudiness in my head by organizing the information on the blackboard and making diagrams. By the end of my five hour imaginary class, my hands are white with chalk dust and I understand those big words that seemed so scary (electrophilic aromatic substitution… I mean, come on).

So here’s the secret of all study secrets: *whispers* no matter what learning style you fall under, if you can teach the information, you truly know it. This is because when you’re teaching, you have to use clear, concise language (auditory processing), specific images & models (visual processing) accompanied by keywords (reading/writing processing) and body language (kinesthetic processing). Our invitation to you is to try this out for your next exam as an experiment. In fact, let us know the results by messaging us on Instagram (@mindhamok). If nothing else, it will be fun to play pretend-teacher for a day.

  • Discover wonder.

Here at mindhamok, we are grateful to work with so many world travelers. You are the brave souls that leave your comfort zones behind in search of something more. Maybe you find “it” hearing a foreign language as you walk down the streets of your host city, or maybe “it” is hiding in the cavernous, stained glass walls of an ancient church. Perhaps “it” is found in the moment you realize you’re across an ocean from the life you used to know. This “it” we’re talking about is not special to study abroad students (though finding “it” abroad might be a bit easier than at home). In fact, this “it” we mentioned is one of the simplest paths to real, substantial joy.

“It” is awe. You know that feeling of looking up at a sky full of stars? Or at a giant tree, hundreds of years old? Or a newborn baby? Awe is a feeling that challenges our understanding of the world. It is a recognition that we are in the presence of something amazing that expands our idea of “possible”.

Awe is waiting for us everywhere. Whether you’re studying physics or art history, awe is right in front of you. How incredible is it that some folks used their lives to do the research or create the art or sign the treaties that we now read about in our textbooks? How cool is it that just a few years ago we didn’t know this much about how the world works? How lucky are we?! So whether you’re tasked with a biology exam or a literature paper, remind yourself of all the work & wisdom that went into your ability to study these happenings. See the stuff you’re studying with fresh eyes. And soak in all the gratitude & honor that comes with learning.

Though it might not feel as fun as Friday night out on the town, studying is pretty cool when you get right down to it. I mean settling into our little corner of the world in order to know more about the rest of it? Sounds pretty mind-blowing to us. Our invitation to you is to cultivate a study nook, identify your learning style, teach a pretend class, and uncover all the amazement in expanding the mind.

This exam season, put your mind in a hammock and explore the hidden joy in studying.

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