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There's no way around it. I'm completely, utterly depressed right now. I just came back from a three hour session at the library trying to get loads of work done. I got through about 7 assignment questions in chemistry and did a bit of review for the upcoming midterms. That pathetic little bit of work in 3 hours. God. Why? Cause that chem assignment was handing my ass to me on a silver platter with cheese on the side. Pwned? Noobed? Yes, all of the above please. To make it worse, earlier today when I was working on my calculus assignment, it was much the same. The very first problem had me laboring and laboring. I'm practically dead in the water. I have never known so much difficulty in my life, which is probably something to be glad for, considering I've never undergone too much hardship in the past, but this really takes it. The high school to university transition is nothing like what they said. Oh, they told us it would be a big jump, but this isn't a jump. This is an impossible leap. I feel as though I have my legs stretched all the way across the ravine and I can barely hold on. Either I get a big push over or I'm gonna fall straight down.

That big push is going to have to come in the form of help from TAs and professors. Even today, I went to our ECE TA's office and went through the programming assignment with one of them. That helped a lot. I really need to start doing that more. And going to the library too. There are way too many distractions even just in my room. You go to the library and pick out a little booth where you sit and do work without distractions, without noise. I plugged my headphones in and I was away doing work. I can see how some people crawl into a shell when they come to university. The study side of me is telling me to do it. It would be so easy to shun contact with people and just study away. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending) my social side is much stronger. I have to find the right balance.

But it still doesn't dismiss the fact that I am very down right now. With midterms quickly approaching, I feel as though I'm stuck on train tracks and a train's bearing down at me. It seems no matter what I do, I can't untie the knot holding me there. It may only be a matter of time before, SPLAT. It's times like these when I ask myself, am I cut out for this? Don't take this the wrong way, I'm still happy with myself as a person, but in terms of my studies, I dislike where I'm headed. And I'm not alone, oh no. A great many people in my program are feeling the same thing. Hell, a great many people in engineering everywhere feel the same thing. I mean just take a look at this article.

Confessions of an Engineering Washout

You know what? I feel frighteningly similar to what he felt just before dropping out. I don't intend to drop out at first signs of difficulty. In fact, I want to face them and overcome them. Nothing would make me happier or mentally stronger. Plus, I don't even know what I'd do if I dropped out of engineering. Take arts? No, I'd probably just crawl into a corner and die. See, I'm not cut out for programs like that. My heart is in computers and design. Engineering is my field. I just need to surmount these obstacles, those daunting, enormous obstacles in the way.

And you know what adds to the feeling of being in a hole trying to climb out? The fact that there are no breaks. Sure I had a long Thanksgiving weekend, but a big part of it was spent either doing work or thinking about doing work. I know worrying doesn't help anything, but it's awfully hard to get your mind off it when you know there's another assignment due the day you get back. The assignments never end. Back at the Gray, you'd do a big set of tests all clumped together and have like a month in between when you could slack off. Here, they're giving out the next week's assignment before I even pass in the current week's. And they're not the do-it-before-class type assignments. As can be shown by my work tonight, I spent a good portion of that 3 hour library stint working on that assignment and I can't honestly say I'm finished. There's one question I cannot do for the life of me and another that I'm not too confident in my answer.

I just found a quote that exemplifies how I feel right about now. I did well back on the Island in high school, but here, well that's a different story.

"I entered Cornell as a physics major, thinking I was hot sh** because I had the high-school physics lab named after me (the teach promised that to anyone who got a 5 on the AP and 100 on the NY State Regents exams). I also planned to take a lot of CS.

I proceeded to get butt-raped by Calc 192, "Calculus for Engineers," as a first-semester freshman class.


I don't think it was as much the fact that I could not understand the material in the allotted time- curiously, I got most of the bonus questions (which tested actual understanding) right on the prelims, but not the bulk of the actual test- I think it was the fact that I had no prior experience at the kind of discipline it took to plow through 6-hour problem sets on a biweekly basis (the kinds of problem types which, of course, made up the bulk of the actual test)." - 5n3ak3rp1mp

I never built up the discipline, much like this guy, to do these multiple-hour long problem sets. Back in high school, you could get away with doing very little aside from the little assignments. So clearly, looking at the hideous amounts of questions we're 'suggested' to do, I just laughed. And now those questions are laughing at me. Because the concepts are new and difficult, only doing problems and more problems will engrain them into my head. But I didn't realize that until now. And only now am I actually starting to get my ass in gear. Sure it sounds terrible to spend such a large portion of your time outside of class in the library, but it's the only way it's going to get done. I wish I could go out and party every weekend, but it's not gonna happen that way, at least not for now. Who knows, I may develop super good discipline through the week which would give me more time to rest on the weekends. But that can only come with time.

So maybe say a little prayer for me if you're religious. I think I'm going to need all the help I can get. If there's one thing I've improved on over this semester, it's that I'm no longer ashamed to ask for help.
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Blogger Ikey Mikey wrote at 10/13/2005 8:23 AM

Hey Charlie,
One of the engineering geeks here. I am Reese's uncle (bad pseudonym)in London, ON. I just heard about Bill Gates coming to Waterloo and I was wondering if you would make it. A great opportunity!
As for life at University. Our favorite line was "it wouldn't be any fun if you couldn't complain about it". Yes, it can be hell. But at least you are all in the same boat (well apart from that one person who blows everyone else out of the water). First year at Waterloo is the elimination year. They want to see how you handle the stress. If you can make it through the grinder ... and you will ... you will emerge stronger on the other end. Don't loose your cool. You sound organized. Keep doing what you are doing. And enjoy the time off along the way. Michael    

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