Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Autumn 2016 Recap

The first part of this post was written 12/10, the second 12/20.


Dead week is finally over, finals week looms ahead. It is fair to say that this has been one of the more challenging quarters I've had, but really, when have I had an "easy" quarter? Abroad doesn't count--academically it was not as demanding, but there was the challenge of adjusting to another country. Freshman year I had to juggle fewer responsibilities with respect to extracurrics, but I also had huge emotional and social barriers to hurdle.

This quarter I took four of my core major classes: geotech, fluid mechanics, structural analysis, and steel design. Surprisingly enough, geotech and structural analysis ended up being the two "easier" classes, while fluid mechanics is...hard. Steel design isn't conceptually hard but I struggled a lot with it anyway, and it was a lot of work. Add onto that leadership positions in two groups that relate to my major.

Besides classes, the readjustment from coming home from abroad has caused a lot of struggle. I daydream a lot about being back in Berlin or in Hamburg; when I overhear German grad students talking my heart beats faster. I'm going to work on the Hamburg post over winter break, promise, because I miss my Freie und Hansestadt.

Emotionally this quarter has been...well, I can't necessarily say it's been worse than any other quarter. But I loved and adored my dorm from last year, how I could talk to anyone, go into the lounge or any hall and find people to chat with. I don't spend a lot of time in my dorm this year and of course upperclassman dorms are going to be different culturally from freshman dorms, but it's harder than I thought, especially after half a year of living--well, not alone, but not with any peers. And a lot of my friends whom I'm not necessarily the closest to, but with whom I click the most, who don't drain me, are scattered all across campus (or abroad). I haven't had any big emotional crises this quarter, but I had dinner with a couple of friends from my freshman dorm last week and was astonished at how much more at ease I felt after it.

I need friends who have an instinctive sense of my boundaries, with whom I don't need to constantly assert my need for space. And this isn't to put down people who have a higher need for closeness or who are more emotional. But I need space and I need silence and if they aren't left for me I will make them.

...which is quite a contrast to what I wrote last winter about love, isn't it? But if emotional energy is a renewable but finite resource--like a forest--then it needs a balance between input, output, and the level of the property in the system. Just like control volume analysis. And I'm approaching the end of the quarter pretty drained.


I've been sleeping a lot since coming home after finals week. It really has been a draining quarter, and the first part of this post is somewhat negative. But I do enjoy learning and I am finally looking at the knowledge I've accumulated and seeing that the road from where I am to where I want to be is under construction. I have a lot more contact with grad students than I did last year and it's good, it's nice. They are much more knowledgeable than I am and although I don't see academia as my future, I do want to get at least a masters.

My plans are currently: get into the coterm program next winter (Jan 2018). Start taking grad level classes in winter of senior year. Get my BS. Defer starting my coterm to work for a year or two. Get my masters is a year, or less if I can swing it. Jump headfirst into my career.

I have a long list of things to discuss with my advisor, including the possibility of research--I don't want to pursue research just so that I can potentially graduate with honors, but I have never really gotten into research so I wonder if I'm selling myself short by not exploring it further.

I have an even longer list of things to discuss with myself, because I look at this writeup and think about the heartfelt reflections I wrote in freshman year and wonder if I'm losing my focus, losing my powers of introspection, losing...something. What do I value? What kind of impact do I want to have on the world and what do I need to do to set myself up to accomplish that? Is the dream now the same dream I had when I entered college? What work must I do so that I can die satisfied?

Is a coterm really the best thing for me? I want to get a masters as quickly and cheaply as possible. And I do for sure want to get a masters, because I don't want to stay a peon for my whole career. But what will be most useful, what will be the most valuable?

This quarter I was supposed to clarify these questions, and instead I think I ended up sucked into the whirlpool of doing nothing but working on the things in front of me. So this break I need to have a strategy summit with myself and figure out where to go from here.


//I'm pretty dissatisfied with this post, may come back and add things later.

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