Finals are quickly approaching. Which means instead of studying, I offer you a first-year engineering student’s perspective on her first semester at U of T.
Even though it doesn’t quite feel like it, it’s been (nearly) three months since I walked through the doors to my dorm, put down my things and mentally prepared myself for F!rosh week, meeting new people and living away from my parents. Since the whirlwind of activity and now-forgotten names once learned that week, I have learned more course material than I now currently retain, made many new friends in the Skule community, yelled myself hoarse, laughed, cried, and wrote many tests and pulled many all-nighters.
That sounds just a bit vague and cliché. I’ll try again. Perhaps some order would help. F!rosh week was intense. It was exciting, it was (very) purple, and I was overwhelmed by how much spirit the Leedurs had. I’ve led as a skillbuilder in high school conferences and events, and I can honestly say that university would put all those experiences to shame. It’s impossible to capture the rapture of the students, both froshies and upper-years. It’s something that can only be experienced – and even then, it’s difficult to explain to friends from other faculties and universities that intangible feeling of connectedness. Classes started that first Thursday. Adrenaline kept me running for the first half of the week, but it proved to be too much. I slept through my alarm and missed my first lectures – a double dose of civ. Time required to catch-up was minimal, but I definitely recommend attending lectures, even ones in the first week.
Academic life was probably the same as what I had in high school, but at the same time, felt oddly different. It was strange to have hours without class, then have classes past three in the afternoon. Unlike my experience in high school, where we would have about half an hour of instruction and then another forty minutes of self-work and questions, lectures (that’s the instructional part of each course) were fifty minutes long, with no time for self-work in that time. Furthermore, rushing from one class to the next made it easy to “forget” to look over that day’s notes, and I quickly found that I was falling behind and forgetting what I was learning every day. However, the graded assignments we received every week or two forced me to recollect and apply the material learned, and I found those to be useful tools for studying. Before actually sitting through a lecture, I thought I would be one face among hundreds in a lecture hall. With the exception of ESP, that proved to be a false worry. My profs were friendly and tried to make lectures less boring, each imparting his own distinct teaching style (all my profs have been male so far). Also, I had thought that we would be unable to ask questions in a lecture. The profs are generally very good with responding to student requests to repeat concepts or go over details of each lesson. They also have a sense of humour. At least, most do.
[Insert a break of a week where yours truly procrastinates on her work and attends a bunch of extracurricular events. Yes, engineers have lives outside of academics]
The last day of the fall semester is December 4. My last civ lecture was on the Monday. At the end of the lecture, we all applauded. Though it didn’t seem like it at the time, I had learned something in that class. I can calculate moment in two and three dimensions, apply formulas that I will have no hope of remembering three months down the road, and I can make quick decisions. From all those panicked “oh-my-gosh-my-assignment-is-going-to-be-late-why-did-I-not-do-this-earlier” sessions, I managed to retain a few lessons.
I wish I could say the same for calculus and linear algebra, but I honestly haven’t a clue to what we’re doing. I’ll catch up soon enough. Hopefully. I don’t think my parents would be too pleased if I didn’t.
In any case, it’s been a long journey; I’m tired, and the luxury of sleep beckons from the other side of finals week.
-Fan Guo, TrackOne 1T7