Student stress peaks during preparation for finals

She hypnotically stares into her MacBook while constructing a book for her design class and unwillingly lending an ear to the professor lecturing about Asian American studies. The MacBook is strategically hidden so the professor never notices her disobeying his ban of laptops.

Being busy has become normal for SF State student Altarose Calaguin, 22, as she juggles school, work and her sanity in hopes of graduating next spring with a design degree.

In order to graduate in the spring, Calaguin said she has to take 15 more units and work on her senior thesis. The 15 units is the easy part. It’s the thesis that makes her cringe.

She has watched many design classmates lose hours of sleep and gain bloodshot eyes while working on theirs. The thesis consists of extensive research about a problem in the community, evaluating the existing solutions then coming up with a better solution.

Calaguin said she plans to structure her thesis around the Asian American autistic community. She became inspired after watching a show on TLC about autistic children.

Calaguin has this semester to focus on in the meantime.

“I’m constantly bombarded with school work. I’m so stressed, but I have to do what needs to be done,” Calaguin said. “I don’t even want to think about how busy I’m going to be next semester.”

Calaguin said she starts every day on campus at 8 a.m. visiting the copy center where she prints out blueprints and designs for at least one of her six design classes. Design classes involve creating posters, videos, logos, designing magazines and building interactive maps.

She’s also enrolled in two Asian American studies classes for her minor. The Asian American studies classes require her to read long, text-heavy academic journals regarding Asian American experience in the United States.

In between attending those classes she works at the College of Education computer lab in Burk Hall. She logs in about 10 to 15 hours a week assisting students with their projects, maintaining computers and computer parts, updating software and helping faculty members become accustomed to the computer systems.

She usually finds time to catch up on sleep when the lab is closed. Sleep has become a rare commodity.

“In a perfect world I’d get sleep, but it’s OK right now because I’m getting by with naps here and there,” Calaguin said.

Stress can become common for students during the semester, but it may play more of a factor as students get ready for finals. Student health services health educator Albert J. Angelo said students need to slow down and understand they’re not going to be stressed forever.

“Students have to understand there is an endpoint to their stress,” Angelo said. “Once there is an acceptance to the stress you can begin to determine the amount of resources you can devote to a project, a paper or a final. Breaking it down will make things easier. Today students are asked to be more than just students. They need to have a job, be a parent and sometimes they have to take care of their parents.”

Calaguin said when the stress gets unbearable she likes to unwind by watching her favorite TV shows such as “CSI” and “Hawaii Five-0” or enjoying a hot fudge sundae from McDonald’s.

“I would love to keep up-to-date with my shows,” Calaguin said. “But it gets hard to find the time. It’s difficult to find the time to do anything. When I don’t have time to go out and get food I’ll just leech off my co-workers.”

Calaguin said her co-worker and fellow design major Eric Ramirez knows all too well the struggles she has had to go through.

Ramirez said he admires how Calaguin has handled the stress of being a worker and a student.

“She stays on top of everything,” Ramirez said. “She is very consistent in the way she works and I’ve learned a lot from her.”

Calaguin said she will be the only child on her father’s side to graduate from college.

“Graduating is very important for him and I,” Calaguin said. “I think he would be very proud and it’s something that I’ve always wanted.”