Blackboard have mercy.

Finals season is upon us.

Except, it’s not a normal finals season. Ordinarily, we’d be prepping on campus with friends, but this semester we’re navigating Humber and Guelph-Humber‘s respective online delivery methods while trying to juggle exam prep with social distancing. It’s a lot to handle.

As such, it’s no surprise if you’re experiencing a grab bag of conflicting emotions. I sure am.

Homer Simpson from Matt Groening's "The Simpsons" wears blue pyjamas while dancing across his living room chanting "Mood swings," over and over.

In the spirit of community care, I thought I’d document how it feels to move through this strange exam season—in the style of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ famed five stages of grief:

1. Denial

Spongebob Squarepants buries himself beneath the sand. The word "nope" appears on top of him.

“This isn’t happening. Everything’s fine! I’m just going to get some sleep, and in the morning I’ll head back to campus and tell all my friends about this very strange dream.”

It’s no surprise if the reality of quarantine took a while to hit you. Hey, if you’re like me, for about 15 seconds after you wake up in the morning, you completely forget about the COVID-19 pandemic. (Man, what a great 15 seconds.)

The only way to deal with this phase is to follow the advice of our pop goddess, Cher—snap out of it! Online exams are the reality for this semester. And, the longer you stay in denial, the more likely you are to unhealthily bottle up your emotions.

If you need someone to talk to, make an online appointment with Humber and UofGH’s qualified counsellors. They’re here to help, even from far away.

2. Anger

Jemma Ball from season 9, episode 10 of SHOWTIME's "Shameless" glares at the camera.

“Do my professors seriously expect us to take online exams in the middle of a global emergency?! Really? They couldn’t let us off the hook this one time?!”

Calm down, friend. I know how you feel.

Anger is a natural response to stress, according to Joshua Nash, a counsellor based in Austin, Texas. So, you shouldn’t shame yourself for feeling it. It’s more than okay to be upset your school year isn’t going to end the way you hoped. But, keep in mind who is really to blame.

It’s not your teachers. It’s not the school. It’s not the government, or your program coordinator, or the members of your group project.

It’s no one. No one intended for this pandemic to happen; we’re all doing our best to maintain some semblance of normalcy in very strange and stressful times.

Be angry, but don’t be angry at anyone. If quarantine is causing quarrels, consider setting up a virtual meeting with IGNITE’s Dispute Resolution Clinic (DRC).

3. Bargaining

James Franco in NBC's "Freaks and Geeks" holds his hands in a prayer position and mouths the word "please".

“Please. I’ll never wait until the last minute to study again—just, please, let me back on campus. Please.”

Being faced with academic responsibilities right now might have you feeling helpless and lost. You might even find yourself exploring an endless series of hypotheticals as a way to escape the current reality.

“If only I had done a little better on my midterm.” “If only I had found out earlier that exams would be online.” “If only this pandemic hadn’t happened.”

Imagining all the “if only” scenarios is an easy pattern to fall into, but it isn’t a helpful one. Unfortunately, no amount of daydreaming will get us back on campus for exams. There are, however, things being done to ease the present circumstances.

Humber and UofGH have both revised their grading schemes for the Winter 2020 semester, with the aim of supporting student mental health. If you’ve read over these changes and are still concerned about your marks, send an email to your professor, before your final exam, informing them of your situation. Chances are, they’ll be willing to assist you in any way they can.

Teachers are people too; they understand sometimes things get tough.

4. Depression

A young boy being interviewed by a news reporter smiles and then quickly begins to sob.

“I can’t handle this. It’s too much. Everything is too much. I will never get through this.”

Be careful using the word “never.” You will get through this. We all will.

I truly can’t stress this enough: transitioning to a completely new academic format at the drop of the hat is hard. It’s even harder during a global emergency. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or unmotivated, you aren’t alone.

More than likely, there are things besides school occupying your mind right now. Over two million Canadians lost their jobs during the last half of March as businesses closed in an attempt to slow the spread. Don’t feel guilty for prioritizing your need to make rent over your need to make the Dean’s List.

Humber and UofGH teamed up with IGNITE to announce an Emergency Financial Relief Fund for students financially affected by the pandemic. Furthermore, the federal government announced on Monday, April 6, 2020, that it will provide financial assistance to students unable to work during the summer as a result of COVID-19.

Classes are important, and you should give your online exams your best shot. But if exam prep is taking the back seat to other essentials at the moment, it won’t ruin your future.

5. Acceptance

Greek pop singer Jessica "Josephine" Wendel wears a black sweater while holding her hands above her head and taking a deep breath.

“Alright. Deep breaths. Maybe this isn’t the end of the world, after all.”

That’s the spirit.

We’re already three weeks into online class delivery. Slowly but surely, we’re approaching the finish line. And, although the timeline is unclear, this pandemic will have a finish line, too.

Study as much as you can. Do your best in those online exams. Take advantage of all the resources at your disposal. Reward yourself for a semester well done by whipping up some fancy isolation meals.

Remember, we’re in this together.


A cartoon chick says, "You got this."

Can’t study alone? Check out IGNITE’s guide to tackling remote group work.

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