Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Autumn 2016 Recap

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

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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.

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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.

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

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