The Art of Making It Through a Semester

Making it through a semester is a far more complicated process than assumed up to now. It requires a staunchly capability to endure constant stress, a sufficient mental stability to deal with the question of whether you’re good enough for university or not and the willingness to sacrifice most of your pitiful personal life. There are similarities between every student’s academic experience. These similarities can be divided into five stages.


The five stages of trimestral progression are:

1. Enthusiasm
2. Disillusionment
3. Anxiety
4. Desperation
5. Relief


Every single student will go through these stages during the semester. While the duration of the particular stages may vary, the order will always remain the same. What makes this topic relevant to an art blog? Good question! A German scientist (me) has recently discovered a correlation between the stage of trimestral progression you are in and the art you consume.


Stage 1 – Enthusiasm

At the very beginning of the term you have this feeling that somehow this semester is going to be different, which, trust me, it won’t be. Yet, you get these wild fantasies about actually being able to power through the 3-months obstacle course throwing exams, papers, self-esteem issues and self-loathing at you. This naive “I can really do it”-attitude is characteristic for the enthusiasm-stage and, depending on how optimistic you are, is ousted by the second stage after missing about two to four lectures.

The corresponding art can range from Katy Perry’s ‘California Gurls’ to the critically acclaimed 1988 comedy ‘The Naked Gun’, starring acting genius Leslie Nielsen (may he rest in peace). Anything that is energetic and upbeat, funny and cheerful can be considered Stage 1 art. Growing up with older twin sisters, I have come to appreciate Enrique Iglesias and the Backstreet Boys during this stage.


Stage 2 – Disillusionment

Stage 2 marks the entry of realistic thinking into your mind. You accept that this semester is probably going to end just like the ones before. You have to start weighing the importance of attending lecture with your body’s need for sleep. Deadlines are pushed back, readings are postponed and the work that still needs to be done piles up on your desk just like your self-hatred for not doing it timely.

During this time of the term you will probably work out while listening to an audiobook about how to sell real estate, because procrastination is your nemesis in Stage 2. Hogwash that seems much more important to your future success than university suddenly has top priority. Reading Marx’s ‘Das Kapital’, trying to teach myself how to write music and really getting into photography continuously top my list for unnecessary ventures for when I should actually be studying my soul out in the library.


Stage 3 – Anxiety

Could I drop out of school to become a personal trainer or a travelling bubble tea salesman? Would my parents find out? Would they be disappointed? Oh god, I cannot disappoint my parents. They paid so much for my education. And the rest of my family… What would my third-degree aunt Sally, who I met once at my half-cousin Barry’s wedding, think of me?

Anxiety is a dangerous stage. You start questioning your abilities, forget how far you’ve come and, instead, focus on your weaknesses. Psychosomatic issues like constant fatigue and a racing heartbeat after waking up in the morning are the result. Giving in to your mental instability you read Stephen King’s ‘IT’ or listen to Slipknot’s fast-paced musical depiction of anger and disappointment.


Stage 4 – Desperation

At this point you don’t even care anymore. The unwavering stress has taken its toll on you. You have surrendered and are now dragging yourself the last couple of yards towards the finishing line. Your hair is a mess, you haven’t showered in two weeks, the only person you’ve seen since last Monday is Jimmy John’s delivery guy and your parents are highly concerned because they haven’t heard from you in a while. You would give anything to have this semester end already, but the exams are just coming up…

The lack of spare time in Stage 4 limits the art you consume to pretty much just music. The kind of music you listen to, however, is rather variable. Country, Folk or Deep House… everything is possible. For me it’s usually the 10-hour version of “Sad Music, Cry Music Ultimate Mix 2014” on YouTube, which I can highly recommend; 2014 is, by far, the best and most mellow vintage.


Stage 5 – Relief

Usually the Relief-Stage doesn’t commence until a few days after your last exam. Your body has enjoyed a decent amount of sleep for the first time in months and is now ready for whatever adventure you may embark on during the summer. A woman’s brain releases hormones making her forget negative aspects of the pregnancy after having a child. The same thing happens to students after finishing a semester. They forget about the disillusionment, the anxiety and the desperation, smoothing the way into a new rendition of the same stages after summer break.

Considering the renaissance-like emotional state of students and the beginning of summer, the art consumed in the last stage is all about merriment and light-heartedness. Punk Rock, open-air cinema and street art are most prominent. For me, personally, there is nothing better than listening to a Zebrahead record while driving my car to all the places I couldn’t go to during the other stages. Stage 5 is freedom and happiness.


If you don’t know which stage you might currently be in, just have a look at your Spotify playlist or think about which movie you watched most recently. That should give you a clue. Just try to keep in mind, with exams approaching quicker than the Rohirrim on the fifth day of the battle of Helm’s Deep, that Stage 5 is just around the corner now… We all can get there together!



PS: Remember to be as weird as you can possibly be.

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