A Week in November

Hello everyone!

I’d like to start out with some happy news: registration is over! While it was very fun to choose my classes, planning out what would happen if I didn’t get into my classes was much less fun. And then there was the stress of logging on Thursday morning at 8am and typing in course numbers as fast as I could so that I could beat out all the other freshmen trying to get into the same classes. I don’t like the idea that we’re all competing against each other: I think we need an external enemy to demonize. The problem is there are so many good reasons for all the competition: keeping class sizes small makes classes more interactive; professors who know the subject best should teach the topic, so there shouldn’t be too many sessions of a particular class; typing in numbers makes the process more fair…

Essentially, I agree with the registering process, though I won’t reap the benefits of the class system (the seniors register first all the way down to the first-years) until later on. What was funny was watching all the reactions to registering the second time around. Some people made comprehensive back-up schedules; some memorized the course numbers and practiced typing them for a week beforehand; there were even a rather surprising amount of tears that this process generated. It’s quite stressful figuring out the logistics of a schedule and then trying to plan out where it could go wrong if one class is full! I personally did less than most to prepare. I made a schedule, but didn’t plan out a back-up schedule, though I did get the course numbers for specific back-up classes. My problem was that I was trying to get into 7 different courses (4 actual courses plus 3 accompanying lab courses, which we sign up for separately), so I had no idea what would go wrong, and I figured it wasn’t worth trying to create another whole schedule. Turns out, I very much lucked out. Though the system crashed for almost all of the first years (sitting in the common room, I could hear echoing down the hall “Oh hell no!”) mine crashed three times and then let me in. And though I typed the numbers very slowly, I only had to use two of my back-up classes, and by and large I’m very happy with where my schedule ended up for next semester. As follows:

  • Biology 113 (Organismal Biology)
  • Biology 113 lab
  • Biology 112 (Molecular Biology)
  • Biology 112 lab
  • Neuroscience 100 (Intro to Neuroscience)
  • Neuroscience 100 Practicum (which is like half a lab, because it’s half as long and involves less lab reports)
  • Intro to Cinematic Studies

As for the reasoning for these classes, I’d like to mention that this kind of science-intensive schedule is not typical, especially for first years. I haven’t actually encountered any other first year who is taking 3 science courses, and I’ve been told not to do it (as usual :) ). However, I’d like to be a science professor with a major in Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry, or Neuroscience, which is where this schedule stems from. I’ve done a year of intro Chemistry (Chemistry 120, which is the class I’m taking this semester, is an intensive course that covers a whole year of material), and with this schedule I’ll be done with all the introductory Biology and Neuroscience courses. As for Cinematic Studies, it fulfills Wellesley’s Arts Distribution requirement. Plus it will just be a fun class, and I’m taking it credit/non (which means you either pass or fail rather than getting a letter grade) which I think will further my enjoyment.

Something interesting about choosing my classes (I consulted Professor A, several swimmers, and my faculty advisor Professor Sequiera this time around) was that I when was consulting Biology Professor Sequiera about my classes, she asked me about passion. She said that right now I was just looking for my passion, and as an example of her passion for biology bubbled over with excitement over xylem (the dead cells on the inside of woody plants, which participate in water movement within the plant.) Last week, passion had also come up when one of my dormmates, who is also in my Chemistry class, decided that she didn’t want to pursue Chemistry anymore. My dormmate defined passion as “those kids in class who always ask follow-up questions and are interested beyond the material of the course.”

Well, I don’t always ask follow-up questions, and I’m haven’t been really excited about any topic yet, but I’m not about to give up chemistry either. Right now, I feel like there’s so much to learn in all of my classes that I don’t have time to delve further into a topic besides the material covered in class (which is substantial.) And as for passion, I’ve always just been happy to do all my work. In high school (and here), I enjoyed each of my classes, and I think that’s a key survival mechanism in school: to find something great about every class. Thus I liked history, economics, English, math, science, languages, and though I liked the sciences in high school, it wasn’t a burning desire to study that over any of my other classes. I was asked in my interview (with Tiffany and Celia about first-year life) a while ago about why I wanted to study sciences in particular, and I stumbled. I like them a lot, yes, because I feel like you can discover new things in a way that can’t be done in the humanities.

But this is something I’ve just started recently articulating, and only because after the interview I realized I need a reason for what I’m doing. So far I have a list of subjects I don’t want to pursue in the future (I’m not a math, history, economics, or language major and I know this already) but just a general direction for where I want to go. I think this might be part of finding a passion: finding out why I choose the sets of classes I choose, and articulating this so I can more clearly understand what’s going on in my unconscious. Or it could be about getting very excited about a particular topic, or a combination of both. Regardless, Professor Sequiera reassured me that classes get more interesting the farther from introductory classes you progress, as you can pick your specialties. Meanwhile, I shall be searching for this mysterious passion, both by trying to articulate what I currently like and why, and being open-minded about being excited about a specific topic.

And that was registration :) . Despite being late, I managed to get into a very competitive set of classes, and I’m quite pleased with my choices. Further, I think that this schedule might give me a bit more time that this semester, when I have time for school, swimming, and work, but not much of the small social outings (taking an hour or two for dinner with friends would be nice) I’d like to include. Further, my work is changing (I’m doing research with Professor A next semester) and swimming will end in February, which could give me more time. Then again, I’d like to join the track team if possible (I’m right on the edge of getting in, speed-wise), and with three labs I doubt I’ll ever be short of work :) . Who knows; I might have even less time than this semester! But this semester I’m mostly very happy (stress is a choice :) ), and I’ll have the whole winter break to slack off. Ah, the conflicts of overwhelming or underwhelming oneself: I love staying busy and being able to do so much (I feel like I’m living up to my potential) but an hour or so here or there would be nice (if I can ever remember I’d like that time when new opportunities arise :) ).

Well, since I’m on the topic of school and overwhelming oneself, I’d like to address and issue that I wasn’t really aware of before this week (I’m metaphorically blind, I know.) That issue has to do with settling into college. Suddenly this week, I talked to three different people who told me they had had (or were having) a miserable first-year. It made me realize that my enjoying this year was a product of years of preparation that most students here didn’t have. These preparations, by my parents, teachers, and other adults surrounding me, included the following:

  • Preparation for homesickness. My parents have sent me to overnight camps since I was young, and overseas for a month at a time since high school. During the times when I was away, I was discouraged from calling home due to the expectation that I was to fully immerse myself in the experience. Right now, I call my parents usually about once every two weeks, and email weekly. This is far less than the average student here.
  • Support systems. If I didn’t swim, I would undoubtedly be much unhappier than I am now. I’m naturally not a party/traditionally social person, and over the years I have found that I need sports to fulfill my social needs. If I didn’t have a group with which I was expected to interact with for hours every week, I would throw myself into academics with terrible results. The time I spend in sports allows me to always have a team to back me up and care about me unconditionally (and me them), which I need and would struggle without.
  • Expectations for college. I was told that while I might be a star at high school, college would be different. I would now be a small fish in a big pond, and I should be prepared for the additional challenges I would face. While college would be “the best time in my life,” it would be a struggle. I was prepared for the difficulties I would face academically especially, and I now know this is not something that everyone was lucky enough to be prepared for.

In sum, I realize how much of my life really was preparing me for college and life after college. I was being prepared against homesickness since elementary school, have done sports since before elementary school, and told about college expectations my whole life. Given all this, it’s astounding that even those who had miserable first-years were able to learn so quickly and learn to love their sophomore years. I forget sometimes that everyone doesn’t come into college with the same background. And I need to remember, because there’s so much to respect about all the girls here, even if all of our difficulties aren’t immediately obvious.

…Man, this has been a rather downbeat blog! I’ll make you think I haven’t been having the great time I’ve said I was :) . Which is blatantly untrue: college is awesome, and it is worth all the hype! Last Saturday, as I mentioned, was our first real swim meet! It was all relays, so it wasn’t quite a real real swim meet, but it was loads of fun. I performed quite adequately (some great races, some bad races, but overall very nice) and the team spirit was awesome. I love how the whole team gets together to support each other during events, and the environment here is even better than high school. Everyone is appreciative of everyone’s times and hard work rather than feeling a sense of stressed competition with each other. Of course, there’s always more to work on both as a team and individual swimming, but I’m happy with how I and the team are doing, and I can’t wait for tomorrow’s meet against Clark and Rogers!

Good news from home too! Tomorrow is High School Swimming Section Finals in Minnesota, and my sister Leslie is partaking this year! Funny enough, she swims my event (50 free) in about the same time :) ; it’s good to know she’s doing well! Otherwise, I’m really excited to get in touch with the members of my high school team that I’ve been neglecting. So much has been going on that I forgot to check in with my friends at home! Sections will give me a great excuse though, plus I can’t wait to hear what colleges they applied to. I just checked facebook and realized that one of my teammates from home, Nikki, is going to Princeton: this is awesome, and I am so excited to hear where everyone else is ending up!

My writing class is getting crazy too :) . We’re gearing up for our 12-page research paper (uh, I’ve never written more than a 5-page paper in my life) and I am fearful but excited. Research sounds like fun, though time-intensive. I’ll definitely let you know what’s happening with that next week, because that’s going to be a major time warp coming up…

I get to make my Secret Psycher gift tonight for the meet tomorrow (I get to psych a mysterious swimmate up, but I can’t tell you who in case she’s reading!) Swimming is awesome, and I highly recommend trying out for sports here if you’re interested. (School too :) ). Tonight I think I’m going to the Make A Wish acappella charity concert, and maybe another concert for extra credit in my Writing class. This is after teaching a swim lesson and practice and dinner with the team, of course. Looks to be a fun night!

Unfortunately, I’m going to have to leave you here! Two hours is definitely too short for writing a good essay. As always, send me questions and comments! I’d love to hear from you.

Have a happy Friday,

Monica


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