If people were to ask me "hey Mark, how have you been for the first two month of university?" I would say this past two month is probably the most stressful and difficult time of my life so far. Why? Because not only am I now living without the immediate nourishment of my parents, but also facing way more academic pressure than ever before. Just as I imagined I am not the most academically strong student in my cohort, I feel like I have to study twice as much just to get even with everyone else. I guess it is partially the fault of impostor syndrome, but I think I have much to improve on my study strategies.
Ok so I've written whats above 2 months into university. However, I didn't continue to write it because I was just so stressed out with school and didn't feel much motivation to continue. Now that I lived through first year of Software Engineering... and on my coop term, I think I finally have the time and the lowered amount of stress to allow me to finally finish this post.
So... How was it?
Well, funny you should ask... Disclaimer: I'm not going to try to sugar-coat anything and trying to keep it as real as possible. To put it simply — it was rough. Honestly, when I was writing the first paragraph of this post, I really thought it can't get harder that what it was then. But little did I know, 1A was only a prelude to 1B...
Just for your information and context. For Waterloo's 1B Software Engineering I had to take: ECE106 (Magnetism) ECE124(Digital Circuits) ECE140(Linear Circuits) MATH119 (Calculus II) CS138 (Intro to Data Abstraction/Implementation [aka, OOP with C++])
In terms of difficulty let me rank it from easiest to hardest: CS138, MATH119, ECE140, ECE 106=ECE124. Note this is highly subjected to me. By no means it is objective, but it should give you a good idea of the general trend.
Although I don't think I gave my 100% or did I have the best study habits, but I did try really really hard. Like it was to the point where it's normal to wake up at 7:30am and go to sleep at like 12:30am and during that time like have a total of max 2 hours of non-school related activities (such as eating food and bussing). During the most stressful times my friends and I would head directly to library after classes ends at 4 or 5pm and stay there until it closes at 11pm. Yea talking about stress and pressure.
Ok enough complaining, so did I really had to work my ass off like that? Well the answer would be no. Had I worked a bit smarter and absorbed what my professors was teaching better in class than on my own time I would've saved countless hours. So if for some reason you are actually reading this far and wants a TL;DR: "Preview content before coming to class, review it the night of, and ask questions ASAP!" Trust me, this will save you so much more time than it takes!
Fear of Failure
I think most students including me, avoiding failure is one of their top priorities. Being in a highly pressurized environment anything that can potentially decrease my grade was at best described as haunting. During 1A failing wasn't much of a concern, it was more like "oh man I want a 85%". But in 1B it was like "oh man I just want 60%+". Haha, I was definitely more dramatic that I should've been for some of my courses, but for ECE124 and ECE106 I believe my fear was pretty justified.
OK I promise, I will just talk about one more negative experience, then I'll move on to the good stuff :). Okay, here it comes. Being a pretty decent student in terms of grade for the entirety of high school, failing was never a major concern for me. What often made me anxious was not getting in the 90s. But the course Digital Circuits (ECE124) really made me understand what failure can feel like. It was the course that I probably studied the hardest out of all five of my courses. However, its final exam was definitely the hardest exam I've ever written. I was legit just skipping questions and telling myself that I will come back to it for basically all of the questions. That 150 minutes were so stressful. After I realized I basically will at max get a 35% on the exam and that I would just barely pass the course, I found it very difficult to focus. My brain couldn't stop panicking and running simulations where I will fail this course and how disappointed my friends and family and myself would be. Fast forward to the day that the result came out and I actually did 10% better than I originally anticipate (prof definitely curved) I felt slightly better, however, it was still a lot lower than my other courses.
OK, cool story bro, but whats next?
Whats next, well if we're talking about the immediate next it would be coop term (which I am in right now as of writing this). I'll talk about how coop has been in another post. Stay tuned! ~~~
If you mean to ask whats next for school, honestly I don't know. Like I understand all the things that I need to do like preview, review, ask questions. Just that talking about it and executing it is two different story. However I do realized I will probably have to apply these strategies given that I'll have 6.5 courses next semester... I'll definitely try to keep myself accountable for what I do, because trust me, a little less than 4 months is really quite short to learn all the courses without a plan.
Anyways, this concludes my rant for first year of university. I'm sure second year will not be any easier, I sincerely hope I'll be fine!
Thanks again for reading, stay tuned for my next post about my coop experience!