Dear Birdie: Bad grades, house parties, and break-ups

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Graphic by Nat Inez, Graphics Contributor

Dear Birdie: My high-school boyfriend and I came to UVic together. We live in the same residence and it’s been a lot of fun, but now I feel like I’m missing out on meeting new people and having different experiences. I’m thinking of breaking up with him but it feels like a betrayal because we chose this school so we could be together.

 —Break-Up Brittany

My very general rule of thumb for breakups is this: if you are thinking about breaking up with someone, you should probably break up with them.

But let me break that down. Thinking about breaking up with someone is a clear indication that you are unhappy in your relationship for one reason or another. A struggle to balance commitments or a physical separation are examples of when there is room for discussion and reconciliation, but behavioural issues, insurmountable differences of opinion, or a desire for change usually indicate a lack of vital signs in the relationship. I believe your situation falls into the last category.

However, it sounds like your problem is not in deciding whether or not you should break up — you already know that you should — but rather, in figuring out how to do so with tact. Looks like an honest discussion about your feelings is in order! Yes, he may be resistant, but remember to be clear in your desire to break up so that there is no confusion.

Try to make him see the mutual benefits of a breakup: how both of you will be able to explore different interests and meet new people in your respective fields of study. I understand why it might feel like a betrayal, but trust me when I say that it’s not. You should never feel obliged to date someone out of loyalty or shared history. He is an adult, and while you may have made a joint decision to attend UVic, he alone is accountable for every choice he makes.

You are wise in recognizing that universities breed change. They present us with different opportunities for self-exploration, and sometimes the only good way to take full advantage of those opportunities is to do so alone. Nobody is saying you can’t eventually get back together once you’ve sown your wild oats, but don’t stop yourself from doing so for fear of an awkward conversation or uncomfortable run-in at the cafeteria.

Dear Birdie: I just got my grade back on my first major assignment of the semester and let’s just say I did not do as well as I’d hoped. How do I come back from a really bad assignment?

 —Tanked-It Tyler

Sometimes you have three assignments due in one day and there’s just not enough time to give each one its due attention. Sometimes you forget to look closely at the grading rubric until after you’ve submitted. And sometimes you think you’ve handed in your essay magnum opus, only to discover that you actually can’t write for shit. We’ve all been there (and will likely be there again), but it’s important to remember that the solutions to these problems are simple and numerous.

If you are having trouble juggling your workload — an understandable problem, as the jump from high school to university is significant — you probably need to improve your time management skills. Be sure to keep an agenda or calendar to help track how many assignments you have each week. This also helps you identify your busiest weeks and look ahead to when you need to ask professors for extensions, if necessary. I also suggest you break down your workload into portions and complete these at regular intervals to avoid writing the whole thing or studying all ten chapters the night before. Do I always practice what I preach? Not exactly — but setting goals still helps keep the anxiety in check.

Also, visit your professors during their office hours. It sounds tedious, but professors are usually very good at helping you to focus or expand on your current essay topic or project pitch. At the very least, they will clarify the parameters of the assignment so that you understand what is the most important in terms of grading. If you discover that your problem has more to do with the mechanics of the work, there is still help for you yet. The C.W. Lui Learning Commons, located on the first floor of the McPherson Library, offer a variety of assistance: academic reading and writing support through the Centre for Academic Communication, and research support from the librarians at the help desks.

Dear Birdie: I want to host a house party with multiple sets of friends from different social circles, but I don’t want it to be really awkward if nobody knows each other. How do I avoid people feeling uncomfortable?

 —Hostess Hannah

You, my friend, are a noble soul. Many people rant about how great it would be if someone had a party, but do they ever actually put their house on the line? No! There’s always an excuse — their landlord lives next door, or they’re afraid their floors can’t handle the strain, or their hamsters need to be asleep by eight.

So good on you for taking the plunge!

But you’re right — it’s a tricky business bringing together separate worlds. My first piece of advice is to “over-invite.” This will account for those who always cancel at the last minute and will guarantee a large enough attendance for splinter groups within the party. You want to avoid the “children’s birthday party” scenario, in which there are fifteen kids all participating in the same pre-planned activity because it’s not quite big enough for people to do their own thing.

Second, make sure to have music playing and group games set up so that the more introverted among your friends don’t have to agonize over what to do with their hands while they talk to strangers.

And finally, if it is possible, I’d arrange a few smaller social gatherings or outings beforehand in which you can introduce a few people from those separate worlds. That way, when it comes time for the bigger party, you’ve already begun to close the gap between the social circles and the beer pong tournament will run a lot smoother.

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