Depending on where you went to high school and how academically challenging it was, you will either be super prepared for the amount of homework the average college student has or you will be overwhelmed by the first week and spend the rest of the semester playing catch-up with your assignments. I was definitely the second type. My high school did not prepare me at all for the amount of work college would give me and I spent my entire first semester trying to adjust. Now that I’ve gone through two full semesters at USC, I’ve learned some helpful tips on how to stay on top of my work. If you are also struggling with balancing your workload, keep reading for some studying methods that might make your academic life a little easier.
The first tip I have is to get your sleep schedule back on track. It is common to stay up late one night to work on a paper and then end up falling asleep in class the next day. Unfortunately, this causes you to have even more work to do. This forces you to stay up late again and before you know it, your sleep schedule is backward. Establishing a regular sleep schedule will not only help you feel more like a human again but will also improve your productivity in the long run because you will have more energy and be able to absorb information better. It might seem impossible with all the work you have but trust me, it is possible and will make you feel a million times better.
The second tip I have is to split your free time into just working or just relaxing. For example, you have two hours in between classes. You can either work during those two hours or relax, but only choose one. If you choose to work, silence your phone and devote the entire time to just working. If you choose to relax, find a stress-free activity to do and let your mind relax. Instead of having your work open in front of you but not actually doing any of it, choosing either to work or relax allows you to devote your entire focus on one action and boost productivity. However, it is important to make sure that your choice to work and to relax is balanced, or that can result in other problems.
What do you normally do before an important exam? In some cultures, people will pray to the god of wisdom, or avoid washing their hair because it is believed to wash the knowledge out of the brain. Some tend to wear clothes with lucky colors. For me, my pre-exam ritual is to have a bowl of crossing-the-bridge rice noodles.
In Yunnan, China, the local people’s diet holds rice noodles to an equal status as rice. Different from rice noodles from other provinces, the traditional Yunnan rice noodles are made of fermented and milled rice. Thus, they have a very slightly sour taste due to the longer fermentation time in the production process. Crossing-the-bridge rice noodles are the most famous cooking method of these noodles. The soup base is stewed with pork ribs, fresh chicken, fresh duck, and Yunnan ham. After simple seasoning, the thick soup must stay boiling and be put into a large, insulated bowl. You can then add fresh fish slices, fresh tenderloin slices, mung bean sprouts, and mushroom slices to the soup individually. My favorite ingredient to add are fresh raw quail eggs. As the raw quail egg touches the soup, the color of the egg white and yolk changes even before they start changing shape in the broth. This is how we magically make a soft boiled egg in a fully intact shape. When I was a little kid, I always wanted to complete this part by myself but was stopped by my parents since the temperature of the soup was too high.
You are probably wondering why this dish is named “crossing-the-bridge” and why it is connected to pre-exam rituals. One well-accepted version of its origin story goes like this: in the Qing Dynasty, a scholar living in southern Yunnan used to go study at a pavilion in the middle of a lake to prepare for the imperial examination. To support him, his wife often made his favorite rice noodles and brought them to the pavilion. Every time she got there, the rice noodles had already become cold. One day, she accidentally found out that the thick layer of chicken fat covering the soup helped it stay at a high temperature. The rice noodles, the meat, and the vegetables actually tasted more refreshing if they were put in right before eating. Since then, she always stewed the soup with chicken and other meat first, and waited until she arrived at the pavilion before putting in the extra thinly sliced ingredients and rice noodles. With her support, the scholar eventually got the highest exam score. Because every time the scholar’s wife needed to walk across a bridge to reach the pavilion, people named this cooking method “crossing-the-bridge rice noodles” in order to commemorate this talented woman. Since then, having a bowl of crossing-the-bridge rice noodles has become a popular pre-exam ritual for many local people.
As part of the cultural heritage of Yunnan, China, crossing-the-bridge rice noodles have become a top cuisine that no visitor to the region should miss out on. Before I went to college, I used to take it for granted because there are so many restaurants that sell it in my hometown. I did not realize how hard it is to find authentic crossing-the-bridge rice noodles until I started my life in another country. However, after visiting almost all the Yunnan restaurants in LA, I found two good ones where you can get a taste of this traditional cuisine:
You can find two Yunnan Restaurants in LA: one is located in San Gabriel, and the other one is in Monterey Park. Here, when ordering crossing-the-bridge rice noodles, you will have the chance to add all of the ingredients to the boiling soup yourself. Apart from the rice noodles, don’t miss the amazing Chinese Salad with different cold meats or vegetables in spicy sauce.
Located in Hacienda Heights, Yunnan Garden has a more spacious dining area. The crossing-the-bridge rice noodles here are put in a big bowl in which the cook has already put in all the ingredients and rice noodles. The soup base is great and I’m sure you will love it.
If you want to try a new pre-exam ritual before a major exam, try the crossing-the-bridge rice noodles and remember the story of the scholar and the talented wife, and hopefully it will bring you good luck.
Qianhui is a doctoral student majoring in Psychology. She received a B.S. in Psychology from East China Normal University in 2019. She is interested in how children learn about social agents and the social world. When she isn’t working in the lab, Qianhui enjoys traveling, reading novels, watching movies, and cooking.
It’s easy to feel like college is supposed to be the most important and formative part of your life. At least, that’s what many of us have been led to believe through media and film. However, after some time, I’ve come to realize that’s not true for everyone. It’s hard to not get muddled up in what you think your experience is supposed to be, but it is best to focus on making it the best version of what it already is. I felt the same way about high school — like everything that happened was the most important thing in the world. Yet, the number of people that I still keep in contact with that I used to see every day can now be counted on one hand. Even my most embarrassing or happiest moments have all become a blur.
High school and college can be all-consuming while you’re in them, especially because they are a cesspool of unhealthy comparison. However, everyone is on their own path — it may take longer to get from one place to another for some, but that doesn’t determine your destination. Trust that everything will work out, and if it doesn’t, worry about it when it happens because everything, good or bad, eventually comes to an end.
Here are a few tips I’ve gathered over time to help remember how to keep things in perspective in college:
1. Start studying early to minimize stress around exam time.
Annoyed how tests, projects, and papers all seem to pile up at the same time? Start studying early by going over your notes for a few minutes each day so you don’t have to cram for four classes at once. When you have some free time, study even if you don’t think you have to because exam time can sneak up on you before you know it. Easier said than done, but try not to procrastinate! This way you won’t be so concerned about where you stand in relation to others when you are cramming during exam week.