Is Learning Chemistry difficult? Are you stressed about it?
Exam time is coming and we have 1,100 freshman chemists getting stressed and nervous, so this is for them.
You need “stress” in your life. No stress would mean you would stay in bed all day. Well I’m a chemistry prof and like physical chemistry, and not a psychologist, but over the years you get to know students worries.
There are two types of stress. There is bad stress (“I’m scared”, “I’m dumb” “It is too hard?”) and there is good stress (“Great day, gotta get up!”, “I really want to understand stuff” “I am looking forward to tonight, so got to look good.”)
Use the good stress.
Be motivated. If you hear a pop song and you like it, I bet you know it by heart after hearing it 2 or 3 times. You have to want to learn a subject. So do not let chemistry intimidate you, it is not that hard, but you must be organized.
At the beginning, PAY ATTENTION to the definitions. I shouted, sorry, but they are the key. Then you apply the definitions to problems, which is almost completely what is tested at the beginning.
Chemistry is fun too, but you have to make it fun. It answers lots of questions in daily life and makes you more aware of things from household chemicals, global warming and green house gases, to stuff on labels and side effects from pharma products.
Learn with your friends. Peer learning is great. Also you can talk to your cat and tell it how NaOH and HCl neutralize each other–that is articulation helps retaining material. Do the assigned problems only (not the others) and do them properly. If you have trouble, look at the answer in the solution manual, but then do it again without looking. You can preview the text material first, but please read it again after you have studied the material because then the text makes sense.
Keep up. Do not cram. Imagine you get a 4 month job and you say to your boss, “Hey pay me for the four months, but I will do all the work in the last 2 weeks!!” Keep up, understand the stuff as you go and then review before the exam.
When you get stuck, do not give up. You can bet it is that bit of knowledge that will be on the exam, so work on things you have trouble with, not on the things you already know.
Do not believe your teachers. Question everything they say. Then mull over the ideas. When things do not make sense to you, you have not understood them. All of science makes sense. It has to. It is Nature and Nature is, really, amazing: Nature created you, and you are pretty amazing!!
A student has responsibility to learn, that is your job and you can do it well.
original image from sun dazed on flickr