How 4 Desk Friends Help Me Through Finals

A sure sign of finals: Post-its of equations are everywhere.

With Princeton’s 3-week-long reading and finals period, January can seem like one long, unending study session. Thankfully, you’re not alone. There are always some friends by your side… and by friends, I mean desk friends: objects you can’t do finals without. Of course, it’s also a good idea to make time for your real friends during finals. As Kavi has explained, study groups are extremely effective, and they can help you approach studying with better mood. But for now, let’s focus on 4 desk friends that can really do wonders for your studying and your sanity.

1. Library books for classes with intimidating equations in the assigned textbook.

I’m surrounded!

I’m that one weird engineer who was always intimidated by equations, which, unfortunately, meant I usually didn’t find it terribly helpful to read the assigned class textbook, no matter how many times I re-read it. What I did find useful was combing through the library for other books on the same topic, where concepts were more thoroughly described in words (and boy, does Princeton have a lot of books on the same topics…). Sometimes just reading different approaches to the same concept will increase your understanding of it. This is also a good exercise to test whether you actually know underlying concepts— for example, are you sure you’re not just rephrasing what one author has said about them? In any case, there will still be some equations in these books, and being a senior doesn’t necessarily make them less daunting to me. So here we are with Digital Signal Processing…

2. Headphones.

An important application of digital signal processing—this is why I must study!

I always find it easier to study with music, since it helps me concentrate. I’ve found I’m less likely to be tempted to check Facebook or my email when I have motivating music to keep me going. Definitely useful in keeping me awake, too—which brings me to my next friend…

3. Tea. Lots of it.

And better yet, two cups for two types of tea at once!

Healthier, flexible alternative to coffee with naturally caffeinated and decaffeinated varieties! Staying hydrated is always important. Moreover, drinking lots of tea ensures that I’m forced to take a bathroom break and not sit in the same position continuously for 3 hours on end. My back would really hate me then. It’s also a welcome break for my eyes and a chance to regain my bearings so my attention doesn’t start to drift, although for a real break for my eyes, I need the following…

4. My window.

Somewhere out there is an adventure waiting to be taken. After finals.

Okay, it’s not really on my desk, but my window is definitely important for me for finals, if only to help me remember that there’s still a world beyond my studies. Ever heard of the 20/20/20 rule? Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to look at something at least 20 feet away. It does wonders for your eyes and general relaxation as well.

Looking out the window also motivates me to go outside every day, which is a habit I’ve adopted throughout the years. Even if it means a trip to the laundry room, going to the gym, or a walk to the U-Store for some orange juice, getting a breath of fresh air helps invigorate me for another round of studying or paper-writing (yay!).

Overall, even as you’re making your way through finals, remember that your desk friends are there to help you (not to mention your human friends, too). Maintaining healthy study habits is important for keeping yourself comfortable, with less anxiety and less back and eye pain. But, as you know, it’s also an integral component of the task that’s currently on your mind — acing your finals.

— Stacey Huang, Engineering Correspondent