The stress of AP classes

Leila Embry, Journalist

It’s nine p.m. on a Wednesday night and Sophia Langlois is hunched over her kitchen table, hands flying around her masterpiece as she pastes paper into a delicate hot-air balloon shape. She had the last two hours working on this project, and she still has other homework to do. This is a typical evening for Langlois, working hard on paper mache, watercolor paints, and cardboard. It’s a race against time to finish before 11, and Sophia Langlois is losing.

Sophomore Sophia Langlois is one of the many students taking AP Art. However, one thing that sets her apart from many of her peers is she’s also taking APUSH and AP Chem, two of the most demanding AP courses offered at Creek. Her Saturday evenings and Sundays are spent catching up on labs, taking notes from her textbook, and of course, desperately sketching and painting as she struggles to find a good subject for her numerous projects.

According to Langlois, art is “A double-edged sword. It’s a good stress reliever but is also the source of a lot of my stress.”

AP Art is a demanding class, characterized by weekly journal assignments, exceedingly high standards for students, and of course, large, and time-consuming projects.

“There’s a lot of panicking and improvising and somehow, I end up with a finished piece,” Langlois said about her creative process. When she reads guidelines for assignments, her first thought isn’t to brainstorm, but to improvise.

And when she hits artist’s block, she gets “very frustrated and rage and cry. I give up and wait until I get my inspiration back,” Langlois said.

Despite all the stress and commitment of AP Art, Langlois still plans to continue taking Art classes at Creek. After she gets the AP Art credit for college, she’ll take more easygoing classes to balance out the stack of academic APs she’ll take in her remaining two years of high school.

Langlois has always been interested in art, cultivating her talents despite not taking art classes in middle school. Langlois found out about AP Art through a friend, and decided it was something that she wanted to commit to.

“I hadn’t considered our gap in skill at the time, which proved to be a problem,” Langlois said.

Despite her passion for art and inability to accept defeat, she still found herself outmatched by her peers who’d been devout art students since they were young. She struggles to keep up with the high standards, hence the immense stress she constantly puts herself under.

“I have to watch a lot of tutorials to get techniques down,” Langlois said.

Since Langlois didn’t have formative art education, she deals with this disadvantage by watching art tutorials online until she can get a style or stroke down. Every detail matters, and Langlois won’t settle for anything less than what she knows she’s capable of.

“I spend an average of five hours on art when I sit down to do it,” Langlois said. That and a couple more hours of academic homework stacked on top of each other creates only a few hours of downtime for Langlois, usually spent eating, getting ready for bed, and texting friends.

Langlois can’t afford to take breaks, and even if she could, she wouldn’t want to.

“Once I get into a rhythm it’s hard to stop. Sometimes I get so in the zone I check my phone and realize hours have gone by,” she said.

After being in distress from art block, she’ll be productive as much as she can until it hits her again. Langlois gets incredibly immersed in her projects, her only thoughts being on brush strokes, hands, and facial symmetry.

Since art can be fickle and demanding to her, Langlois usually wipes out all her art homework for the week on Friday. It’s hard for her to get out of the rhythm once she’s in it, so she prefers to do it all in one or two large sittings throughout the week, since it’s easier for her when she’s only worried about one class’ work. Of course, she usually has AP Chem labs to wipe out over the weekends, so she’s rarely lucky enough to only have one assignment to do on any given day.

But at the end of the day, Sophia Langlois is still a teenager, who has just as much stress tolerance as you’d expect from one. “Art takes a very large toll on my mental health. I get stressed very easily and often feel like giving up. Seven classes all demanding work from me at once is hard to cope with.” Langlois said.

Langlois chose to take these classes and have this stress, but it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. Often, she’ll have to turn down friends’ offers to hang out in favor of completing homework over the weekends. She is spending her youth like this, sacrificing her mental well-being for college credits.