First-years stress out about being stressed out

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Photo courtesy of Kaley Soud/Catalyst

First-year Thor Hlavaty charges into college and hits the ground running.

The happy, naïve faces of freshmen Novocolliegians begin to darken as the shadows of evil, namely school work, plague the once blissful campus.  First-years everywhere gasp in indignant horror as teachers hand out, with seemingly monstrous relish, yet another enormous homework assignment typical of New College’s intense workload. Only a few weeks into the school year, first-year students are still struggling to get a hold of their surroundings and balance their school work and social life.

As weeks progress, the necessity to help students cope with the anxiety increases. Incredible Stress Facts, a brochure found at the Counseling and Wellness Center, warns of the danger and seriousness of stress. The informational booklet claims that stress can contribute to heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, cirrhosis of the liver, unintentional injuries and suicide.

“Your immune system kind of doesn’t function as well. Your whole body doesn’t function as well,” said the director of the Counseling and Wellness Center, Dr. Anne E. Fisher. Signs of stress overload include frequent illness, anxiety, withdrawing from friends and family, and feeling out of control.

Situated across from the library, the Counseling and Wellness Center provides help to any student feeling less than optimum. “Anyone can come in,” says its head, Dr. Fisher, “they [just] need to make an appointment.” Dr. Fisher sa

t down with the Catalyst to talk about stress:

“Sometimes people take on too many things and they don’t know how to say no…another thing that students don’t mostly do but would really help is to try and remember to sleep regularly,” she says, “Exercise, eat right, get sleep, take good care of yourself. I also think talking with friends is really important. Just find people you can talk with, and get their advice.”

“A really common thing that first-year students do is that they’re intimidated by the faculty…and so they don’t talk to them….Best thing they can do is just talk to their faculty member about it….The faculty here are terrific and so you should take advantage of that.”

According to most first-years, one of the main sources of stress so far has been the system of picking classes. On Aug. 19 2010, New College’s freshman class attended their very first bout of mini-classes. While many students praise the unique mini-class system for its insight into various courses’ content, many also comment on the hardships and anxiety involved:

“It was kind of stressful going to the mini-classes and then thinking about buying books, when you don’t know if you’re in the class,” said Grace Otto, a first-year.

“I find it overtly informal,” said irritated first-year, Matthew Klinkel in response to the system, “…how do I know if I’m suppose to do the homework if I don’t even know if I’m in the class?”

“There’s no certainty in your decisions…I could get capped out of one class, but miss my opportunity to be in another class” reported Catalyst staff writer Kaley Soud. “So much of it is up in the air too and inconclusive….I would appreciate a tweaked system.”

Although the battle against workload may seem steep, the school employs an entire arsenal of activities, programs and people to counter the effect. Upperclassmen always have their share of advice and Andrew Kotick, a second-year, shared some of his personal tips:

“Immediately after an assignment is assigned, I usually do it.  It’s fresh on my mind,” he says, “…I space my workload out.”

Kotick explained that over time, a student will figure out his or her own system, “It’s not an epiphany sort of thing, you develop a sense of what your ethic is, what your habits are over time and as you learn them you develop a routine around those habits.”

For students worried about books, offers college students free access to Amazon Prime for a year. A student only needs to have an .edu email address to access items with free two-day shipping and up to 90 percent discounts on used textbooks.  Students can also use sources like, which allow people to rent textbooks at a very low price.  For those students who dropped a class or got capped out, the campus bookstore gives students a full refund if the purchases are brought back within a week.

Students should never forget that New College offers a huge range of activities and clubs that help blow off steam. Many students suggest walking to the bay, biking or attending a Wall. Some students, like David Scrivener, take part in the Yelling Club. “You just yell about whatever you want to relieve stress or to just have fun.”

Yoga, swimming, sailing, dodgeball, Walls and volunteer work are readably available campus activities that can all give an enormous amount of relief.

In regards to dealing with stress at New College, first-year Soud brings up the school’s deeps sense of community: “There were people singing folks songs outside my court last night,” Soud said with a smile on her face, “If it ever gets to be too much I can just step out my door, and there’s somebody to talk to, there’s someone to be there and be with [which] just helps you…get it out of your system.”

When asked for some last advice for students suffering from stress Dr. Fisher advised, “Slow down a little bit, think about your own goals and what you want and allow yourself time. Paths aren’t always straight…and sometimes there might be some twists and turns — [but] I think that’s ok.”

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