Blurry vision, clammy skin and overwhelming dizziness. What I am describing is not a serious illness suddenly striking me, but rather the effects of an exhaustive day.
As an incoming English major at a university renowned for its engineering department, I realized from the get-go that I would have to push myself to be recognized. Pushing myself in this circumstance meant winding up at the end of day one with my head in the toilet and stress levels through the roof.
I arrived on campus believing that taking on twenty credits, five credits above the recommendation set by the advisors, was possible. Yes, I came in with the knowledge that there would be stress involved, but I was part of the Standardized Testing Generation. I could overcome any demanding situation.
At Drexel University, there is a "Welcome Week” preceding the start of the academic term that is full of activities, as well as the usual college parties, late night Insomnia Cookies run and fraternities going out of their way to impress the fresh faces. This week began with parties going until the late hours of the morning and ended with students rushing to get their hands on the books their professors had suddenly added to the syllabi. Throughout the week, I grew accustomed to going to sleep at three, four, sometimes five in the morning. I could sleep in for however long I wanted to.
In the blink of an eye, the week of fun was over, and I was staring at a calendar full of class times. I suddenly found myself unable to fall asleep before midnight, eyes locked onto the cement ceiling above as I mentally calculated how much sleep I would get. In order to fully grasp the health risks of minimal sleep, dehydration and five classes, let me walk you through my harrowing day.
The day began at ten in the morning with my English rhetoric class followed directly by my English seminar. In these classes, I felt fine. No dizziness. No near-unconsciousness. I had a small break in which I could grab a quick bite to eat from one of the food trucks lining the massive streets. After this, I headed to my University 101 course, then to my mathematics class before hiking back to my dorm. Let it be known that Drexel is a city university, meaning the academic buildings are spread apart, sometimes by many streets. By this point, the exhaustion was overwhelming.
The existential dilemma promptly crashed down on me once I threw my backpack to the floor: food or sleep? I had a German class at six, meaning I could fit in pretty decent sleep. I decided on a compromise, to take a quick nap and grab food. When I woke up an hour later, I had a sudden head-rush and decided to lay for a little longer. Big mistake. I jolted awake an hour later and to my utter horror realized that I had fifteen minutes until my class. Unfortunately for me, my German class was a good ten minute walk from my dorm. Angered at myself, I grabbed a granola bar and practically ran to my class.
The German class went smoothly for the first half hour. I do not speak any German and had only taken the course as my Italian class had been canceled due to low enrollment. By the time I reached the hour mark, I could feel a headache brewing. My body started to shiver and I began to lightly sweat. Recognizing the early signs of a blood sugar crash, I quickly ate the granola bar, hoping it would hold me over. By the end of the class, my whole body had gone cold, the blood had drained from my face and my hands were horribly shaking. “Auf wiedersehen!” The professor dismissed us.
I shot out of the classroom as fast as I could. I knew that if I did not consume something within the next few minutes, I would be passed out on the ground. Spotting a bathroom ahead, I rushed into a stall and proceeded to regurgitate whatever I had in my stomach which was not much. I heard the stalls beside me suddenly empty out as the bathroom went quiet. The only sounds were those of mine.
I felt alone and horrified of the possibility of passing out without anyone to help. I managed to stumble out of the building and out onto the street where I rushed to the only open food truck. With the bag of food in hand, I somehow made it back to my dorm room. It was a frightening day to say the least.
I emailed my advisor that night to inform him that I would be dropping the four credit German course. Getting onto the accelerated academic track faster was not worth damaging my health. It was a hard decision, but one I had to make for myself.
That is what I want my fellow freshmen to take away from this: even if your school’s slogan has the word ambition in it, do not jeopardize your health. No matter what, put yourself first. Do not push yourself to the point of life-threatening situations. Make sure you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, and consume liquids throughout the day. Stay ambitious, but stay healthy.
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