This was going to be my year. Or at least, I had told myself it would. August and September have visited without so much as leaving a tea ring on my coffee table. October has already stood up, ready to say goodbye, and will soon be leaving by the same door. Do I have anything to show for it?
One year ago, on this day, I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown caused by the overwhelming stress of college. It was my second year at college, my second shot at college after a tumultuous summer in which I tried to make sense of just what the heck happened in my experience called freshman year of college. Whatever I went through my first year, I knew I didn’t want for the rest of my academic experience. The summer of my freshman year, I considered transferring. But due to increased selectivity from colleges toward transfer students, and how financial aid packages are often less generous with transfer students, I decided to stay. Universities I called over the summer also warned me that if I transferred in as a junior, I would not be able to study abroad from their respective university. So I stayed. I gave Reed another shot.
Sophomore year was nicer in that I didn’t quite have to worry about making friends in a new environment, and I felt established at Reed. I had a job, had built a rapport with some professors, and knew where to locate certain buildings and services on campus. That makes a difference, even if it just means I feel more comfort and confidence in being a college student. I didn’t have the advantages that peers whose parents went to college did, but there’s nothing like learning to do something than by actually doing it.
While I created a better space for myself as a sophomore, there were plenty of new challenges that came with the new academic year. I was taking four classes, two of which were upper-level courses. I took Intro to Film Theory, an evening class that crammed discussing a week’s worth of reading (often consisting of highbrow theory drawing from philosophical and literary disciplines) into three hours. I was also taking Intro Biology, which at Reed is rigorous regardless of the student’s major, and the lab component lasted four hours, once a week. Adding my job on top of that, I gained significantly more responsibilities this year than the last.
I missed a lot of class that semester. I came late to work often, if I showed up. So what was going to make junior year different?
Due to the disaster that was the fall semester of my freshman year, I learned my limits. This is a critical step. Managing workload is crucial; I will never take four classes at a time again. I have a different job now, but it’s directly related to my personal and professional interests (it’s at my school’s Multicultural Resource Center) so I get personal fulfillment from my job in addition to payment. But my biggest change has been a fairly obvious one: for the first time in my college career, I bought a planner and committed to using it. I jot down appointments on the calendar portion and copy them again onto the weekly calendar, right on the day. I check it everyday so I can visualize my commitments for the week, and find motivation in crossing off items. Since this had worked for me in high school, I really shouldn’t have been surprised it worked in college.
(By the way, it *has* been my year! I was recently accepted to a study abroad program at the University of Barcelona.)