Sitting exams and living life

Teenage Thoughts

Teenage Thoughts
Madeleine Hughes

WE are finally in the month of June!
For me, a 5th year going into 6th year student, this month means relaxing with a bit of work on the side. For the Junior Certs and Leaving Certs, June will be totally different for them. While I'm outside basking in the sun, I imagine all the poor souls who are cooped up in school, using every brain cell and regretting the hours not spent studying.
The main piece of advice I hear from previous LC students would be: “don’t leave studying until the last minute!”. I hear so many people saying, “The LC is not the be-all and end-all".
I don’t feel pressure to impress my parents or teachers, but I put pressure on myself to do well. And recently I've realised that I need to take it easy on myself!  
I have been feeling quite anxious for the last couple of weeks, even though I’m on my holidays, as I can just imagine how stressed and worried the students sitting their exams are feeling. I feel like I’m going through the exams with them.
This is the first year since 2019 that both Junior Cert and Leaving Cert exams are taking place as normal; however these students have been affected by COVID, school closures, and all the stress that came with it all.
I think that after the last few years, the perspective on these exams has changed dramatically.
Before, whenever I heard the word ‘Leaving Cert’, it was said with a serious expression, almost whispered like the word ‘Voldemort’.
Now, it is seen as a chance to show what you retained over your education, to showcase your talents, to not just give it ‘your best’, but to know that even attempting each question is worthwhile.   
 I don’t think that studying for 20 or so hours per week is better than studying smarter, quality not quantity – having a balance of friends, sport and school is what I will try to achieve next year.
Last year, I attended the Leaving Cert exams in my school as I helped one of the supervisors. I made cups of tea/coffee for the teachers, took notes of student numbers each day, and took their phones – a crucial job!
I also gave lots of encouraging words and smiles to the students, who didn’t look that worried. This was back in the day of the ‘hybrid’ exams, where you could have a go at the exams, pick and choose which ones to do, and hope and pray that your teacher gave you a good result!
This experience was helpful, as it showed me that the atmosphere in the school wasn’t chilly or nerve-wracking, but surprisingly comfortable – the students came in looking confident and relieved that these weeks had finally come and that they were ending a bittersweet chapter. 
I am heading into 6th year and as I don’t know what to expect.
I asked Anna Campbell, who previously contributed for the MaYouth teenage supplement in The Mayo News, to tell me a bit about her year as a LC student and her advice.
“I wish I prioritised sleep during my Leaving Cert, having good nutrition and sleep schedule is so important,” Anna told me. “I used to go out for a walk for 15 minutes to clear my head, and that time I had to myself was so nice. Breathing is also important: learning how to breathe when you get the paper, because I remember that moment was so nerve-racking. “Telling yourself affirmations helps you believe that you can get through it is helpful also. “Regulating your nervous system helps calm you, and this can be done by placing both legs up on a wall.
“Lastly, I put so much pressure on myself and I know first-hand that it isn't the be-all and end-all, as I did a backdoor into primary school teaching, and the experience I gained going the backdoor route was fantastic and so worthwhile. What's for you won’t pass you!”.
Make sure to follow Anna’s Instagram page @byloveanna for more of her positive content! 
Anna’s idea that “what's for you won’t pass you” really stuck with me.
There are so many ways to become who you want to be and pursue what career you want to have. There are so many successful people who dropped out of college to pursue their dreams.
For example, Opray Winfrey left university to start her media career and Bill Gates, who dropped out of Harvard to focus on Microsoft, became one of the richest men in the world. Their gambles paid off. 
Lately there have been more options regarding what to do after secondary school, and heading straight into college isn't the only option for everyone. Thankfully, there are apprenticeships available, and not just the stereotypical ones like electrician or carpenter.
The benefits of apprenticeships are that you earn while you learn, which opens up exciting and rewarding careers. Or, of course, there is the option of heading straight into work!
Taking a gap year is another road, one that I myself am considering. 
This is my last summer living at home, not having to think about college or accommodation, and I have freedom to decide what to do with my days. I won’t take these months for granted and I plan to make each day count and as memorable as I can.
This summer I want to remember as the time I spent time with friends, made money for days outs and caught up on all my favourite TV shows (and ate vats of ice cream of course!).  
To those JC and LC students of 2022 reading this, I hope your tests go/have gone well for you. Make sure that next year you enjoy the blissful, stress free month of June.
And think of me stuck in a classroom doing the dreaded Leaving!