The 13 stages of writing an essay in your second language
Studying in a foreign language isn't easy. Source:

Writing essays at university is hard. Fact.

Writing essays in your second language is harder. Double fact.

With nothing but a vague question title and dodgy Google translates to help decode the technical academic language, international students truly deserve a medal for making it through the ordeal.

If you’re currently writing an essay then a) GET BACK TO WORK; and b) failing that, at least find some solace in these relatable memes on the many (many, many) stages you go through when putting that magnum opus together…

1) Find out your deadline at the beginning of term and optimistically plan your work schedule

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So you have your deadline and you know how much other work you have to do. You reasonably put aside one week for core reading and understanding, another week for brainstorming and planning and a final week for writing and editing.

This is going to go so well. And then…

2) You forget about the essay until that day on the calendar arrives. Panic.

Wait, but your deadline wasn’t until the end of term?! It can’t be three weeks away already! You haven’t even had all your seminars let alone had time to understand them. Oh. My. God.

So you…

3) Message the group chat to ensure no one else has started yet

If your course friends are for anything, they’re for making you feel less guilty about your bad work habits. You know what they say…’friends who fail together, stay together’… so while they may not understand your struggle as an international student, at least they’re not miles ahead.

4) Repress all thoughts of deadlines and stress until further notice

Although you promised you were going to give yourself longer this time, now that the time has come to start reading about quantum physics in your second language you’ve realized you’re just not ready to deal with that.

Word of advice: Just do it, don’t overthink it!

5) Recognise you now only have a week to complete the essay. Panic more intensely.

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Oh man. Time to haul ass to the library for some intense adulting. No more midday lie-ins. No more watching Netflix until the AM. It’s time to hit the books (with the help of Google Translate of course).

6) Prepare to live in the library for the next 168 hours until your week of hell is over

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You better look at that essay the way Edward looked at Bella and prepare for a caffeine-fueled, adrenaline-propelled essay writing marathon.

7) Spend 3 hours trying to understand complicated words that even Google doesn’t know

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Not only are you trying to complete difficult assignments, you don’t even speak the language as your mother tongue. While your coursemates are complaining about not understanding the reading, you’re struggling to even grasp the language it is written in. Great.

8) Give up, go home, eat your weight in food and sleep the rest of the day

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You promised you wouldn’t do this, but it’s just too much.

Every word is giving you a headache and you can’t stop dreaming of your leftovers in the fridge at home. At least you tried to go to the library today. Tomorrow will be better, you tell yourself, as you accept defeat. Now… back to bed.

9) Wake up from said nap, realize you’ve done nothing. Then spend all night trying to rectify this.

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Time is slowly running out and the words still don’t make sense. How long until this confusing mess is over? It’s actually the middle of the day back home… so actually, maybe this is the best time to study, right?

10) You finally crash out at 7am and accidentally sleep through until noon


11) Enough of the BS. It’s crunch time.

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You pull yourself together and tell yourself it’s now or never. You have a few days left to engage your brain and do what you need to do.

Mind made up, you roll them sleeves up, get your thinking cap on and type like you’ve never typed before. Now is the time to tackle all those theories you thought at first were beyond your understanding and ace that essay.

And suddenly, as you continue down that rabbit hole, out go the last vestiges of trepidation. You can do this, you really can!

12) And then comes the self-doubt

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So you’ve finished the essay and now it’s time for proofreading. This typically inspires an internal monologue of: is it genius? Is it stupid? Who knows, but it’s done. As you proofread your work for the hundredth time, you can no longer tell if what you have written is nonsensical rambling or an intellectual masterpiece.

You’d like to believe it is the latter but then you’re biased.

13) Submit the final draft online

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Was it great? Was it terrible? You can’t say for certain. For now, you want to celebrate. You made it past the finish line and submitted the essay.

And now when you reflect back on the process, it was a definitely a worthwhile experience.

You came away from it pretty confident that you learned something about your subject and even managed to overcome the language difficulties.

Celebration time!

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