Author: charleythomp

Brain Block? Take a Walk.

Time and time again, there is one point in each semester that I find myself stuck. Stuck in my head, turned around, confused, other thinking, over it. It usually comes after having taken several finals with more in the near future or after spending weeks writing a paper and the due date is in sight. The exhaustion comes from the reading, the retaining, the analysing, over and over again for months. And finally, when I need my brain and focus the most, I cannot do it. At this moment, I start to panic because this is the last thing I have time for. Over the years, I have learned to do the opposite of what feels right in that moment – I stop. I listen to my brain and I take a break. I go on a walk, call a friend, clean the house, whatever it may be, but my brain rests. Sometimes its an hour, sometimes its three hours. And when I come back, my brain is ready and three times as productive as it was when I was trying to force myself to keep going. Time can be your enemy, or you can make it your friend. Things become a lot easier when you allow it your friend!

Professors Don’t Bite.

During first year, I can count the number of times I went to see a professor for help or to ask a question. I’m a shy person so seeking out conversation was not high on my list of fun things to do. I was nervous they would think my question was a “stupid” question or that they had better things to do other than to re-explain something we had already been over in class.

I was wrong to be nervous. It took me until my second year to figure out that that was not their perspective. First of all, it is part of their job to answer questions outside of class and recite information more than one time. But aside from that, I have found every professor to be kind, personable, patient, and very happy to answer all questions. Often, I leave with more than just the answer; I leave with a thorough understanding of the topic and ways to formulate an answer for a potential exam question or bar question. More than not, I end up staying longer than needed just to chat about life or their experiences. The conversation often will steer in directions to highlight other topics I would have questions about like how to answer multiple choice questions more quickly, where to find extra practice questions, and how to cram an insane amount of information into my brain for finals. I have found that the professors find genuine interest in their students and do want to help them succeed. One professor described helping students as an “academic delight.” I also imagine when students talk or ask questions, it helps professors understand what the students are and are not understanding and allows then to connect with the students.

So, when in doubt, just ask! It turns out, professors don’t bite.

From Out of State to… Out of State.

When Widener University decided to move classes online for the fall semester of 2021, I was beyond stressed. I couldn’t image beginning my first year in law school over Zoom. I feared it would be hard to pay attention, I wouldn’t keep myself accountable, and, as a kinaesthetic learner, I wouldn’t learn as well as I would in a classroom. Additionally, I was supposed to move to Harrisburg from Denver three days after the news was delivered. Luckily, my lease hadn’t started in Harrisburg yet so I decided to stay here in Colorado. With that decision made, I started to stress that being so far removed from campus and other students would make me feel like an outsider, exactly what I did not want my law school career to look like.

When classes began, I was relieved for a variety of reasons. I quickly realized everyone else was in the same boat; they feared online classes, too. Many people stressed about not having a thorough, authentic first year experience, learning remotely, Zoom fatigue, not connecting with fellow class mates, and not having professors be as accessible as they would in person. Everyone was worried about everything.

Turns out, there was no reason to be worried. I cannot speak highly enough of Widener University’s professors, advisors, and selected student body. As a first year student who has still never visited Harrisburg, let alone met my professors or stepped into a classroom, I feel part of the student body. My professors have routinely gone out of their way to check on the class as a whole, to ask me personally how I am doing with remote learning, and to encourage me to just sit and chat with them, even if it isn’t about school. My advisors continuously reach out to touch base and offer time for questions or to offer themselves as outlets for stress and other concerns. The student body is encouraging, supportive, and welcoming. There is such a strong sense of community Widener facilitates which has transcended all the way across five states to me, here, in Denver. I contribute a successful first year to Widener and its excellence in managing classes and relationships for all students, in state and out of state.

I say these words in pursuit of relieving future students’ stress of their first year of law school, regardless of what that may look like. Widener has a unique community which offers individual support to each of its students and that selects a student body with similar, supportive attitudes. The works is hard and draining, don’t get me wrong. But with a supportive environment, it has made the ride significantly more enjoyable than I ever could have imaged.