Down in the dumps

17 07 2007

I don’t know how much I’ll be posting today; I finally got to look at my grades from the last semester (I couldn’t previously because of the hold on my account from my parking tickets), and I have experienced yet another, *sigh*, educational setback. I ended up receiving an ‘F’ in a course I was sure that I had passed, one that is only offered in the spring and that I need before I can take another core course that has no equivalent. I don’t know what I’m going to be able to do (I don’t even have an adviser at the moment, being that my newly assigned one wasn’t around all semester and then retired), and at times like this I just feel like giving up. It’s incredibly hard trying to go to school full time and working full time to make sure there’s a roof overhead, and I’ve had to skip class a number of times to make sure the bills got paid. Add that strain to the fact that at this point I’m simply not interested in most of the course material (and the ineptness of some of the professors), and it’s not surprising that I haven’t done very well at all this past semester. I don’t mean to make excuses, only to explain why it is I simply can’t concentrate on my schoolwork, which only ends up dragging out the painful process longer than necessary. I’m so close that I might as well finish, but I hit so many snags that it’s almost not worth the aggravation. Still, I’ll end up shelling out thousands of dollars, driving myself into debt, just to get a piece of paper that allows me to go on to spend even more to get another piece of paper before I can actually start doing anything constructive, and despite my love for science I’ve developed a pretty strong hatred for academia (at least at my own university).



5 responses

17 07 2007

I hear ya… I failed Vertebrate Structure, a 300-level course (and one that is rather essential to the whole vert palaeo thing), when I was a grad student at Wash U. And despite having “extenuating circumstances”, I still felt rotten for it. Having a lab partner who was a) sucking up to my horrible advisor and b) making the cats we were dissecting “dance” didn’t help much with the lab side of things.

As morbid as it sounds, I find it helps at times like this to ask yourself “Would I be perfectly happy dropping it all and doing something else, or would I look back on my life in my 80s and wish I’d pushed harder no matter what it took?”. And I always decide to press on with palaeontology.

A few weeks ago I went to a new students evening at Birkbeck, and listened to a talk by a grad student who’s a good five years into her PhD with no prospect of finishing yet. And one of her key pieces of advice was that “Life sometimes gets in the way”. And that’s okay, because there are things more important than studying and research.

You’re not alone. And if you went to the classes and took the notes and read the textbook then no matter what the exam result says, that knowledge is in there, so it has not been in vain!

17 07 2007

Thank you for the kind words Julia. I know I’ll continue on (I don’t really know what I would do, or even could do, if I didn’t), but perhaps the most difficult part is having the knowledge. I’ve read so much and learned so much on my own in the past year or so that when I get in class sometimes the professor has a different idea/pet theory, so I need to “unlearn” what I think I know and make sure I know how to do things the way they want them. Also, at this point I’ve taken plenty of biology/science electives, so I’m pretty much down to courses like precalc, physics, chemistry, etc. that are required but I don’t have much interest in taking. I guess it’s just embarrassing to be taking so long, friends of mine who I knew as freshmen already being finished, but their experience/circumstances aren’t my own.

I hear you about the lab problems, though; last semester we had to do a pig dissection in biology, and the people in my group basically made me do all the work because they were too grossed out. I hate all the little political games that go on, but at least point it just comes down to doing whatever I have to in order to “escape” college (at least until I go to grad school, and I hope I’ll make a better choice).

17 07 2007

I have so much respect for people who work full-time and support themselves while they’re in college. I feel sorry for myself when classes get stressful, I can’t imagine dealing with that along with worrying about a “real job” (I don’t count my research assistant stuff) as well. Hang in there, it’s frustrating when you’re not in classes that feel relevant to what you want to do, but remember that part at least is just a means to an end…how many semesters do you have left? There is a girl in the REU program here at NAU with me that is from Rutgers, I doubt if you know her, but I thought of you when I first met her and learned where she’s from.

Hang in there and keep your head high!

18 07 2007

It’s ok, it’s alright,
stay in there and write, write, write…

Or something like that. But really, don’t worry, God will make it all turn out ok. Seriously.

18 07 2007

I wish professors would be more inclined to give credit for well-argued answers even if they are contra their pet theories. There’s something very wrong if a student is penalised for reading above and beyond the course literature and for forming their own conclusions.

I had to do geochemistry and thermodynamics at Wash U, despite having done it in more detail as part of my undergrad degree. And ironically, I have always found that I do better academically in the subjects that are most separated from palaeontology, because I work harder out of my comfort zone. But, like you, the passion just isn’t there.

I really hope you can overcome these hurdles – it’s no fun when you see people “overtaking” you (the majority of my geologically-inclined classmates are now “Dr” and the rest are all rich lawyers!), but I bet they haven’t had to deal with half the shit you’ve had, and they’re probably not married to the love of their life either…

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