I did it. Finished my fifth semester of classes. Now I have only 3 finals left, and some finite but undetermined amount of time left in the library studying. I’ve learned so much this week, mostly about myself and a little about humanity. Naturally, the last week of classes was the hardest, with a midterm, lab practical, and two nearly impossible problem sets. Every high school student should know being an engineer is tough. I mean, let’s face it, undergraduate engineering classes are not about building cool things and running fancy experiments, they are mostly book work, i.e. learning how to solve problems.
By the end of this week, I feel that I had given up hope. I seriously completely regretted my decision to major in Chemical Engineering, and as I was walking across campus on the night of the Lighting of the Quads heading to the HAC lab to write my computer programs, I seriously envied all the student outside with the gingerbread houses and hot chocolate having fun. I was alone on the freshmen quad when the lighting happened and I was fill with the kind of sad, hopeless envy, which I can only describe as pitiful. That’s a feeling I never wanted to feel. But I’m in it for the long haul, I can’t back out now. Ultimately my frustration is all rooted in one thing. I could spend 35 hours, maybe more, studying for any single exam, and it will never be enough. Nothing seems to be enough to ensure as professor like to say “that you have mastered the material.” I always strive to improve myself, that is just the kind of person I am. And this week, not because I chose to, I just had to let something give because time just did not permit. Getting that midterm grade back was heartbreaking, and probably more so than heartbreaking it pushed me a bit to the edge. But that’s the risk we take in being engineers. You have to be prepared to have your ego pulverized, and to study sometimes a little obsessive compulsively. But not every engineer does that, so maybe I am unique, or share this quality with only some other students. It’s because we want to better ourselves, prove to ourselves and our instructors we can do better given another chance.
They say Hopkins is not for the faint of heart, and I agree. It’s not because it’s cut throat. After this week, I’ve realized the Hopkins experience is about bettering yourself, pushing yourself to your limits, and probably most importantly showing you that you have a lot to learn. When I played jazz saxophone in high school, my private instructor told me that I could never be satisfied with my tone, even though as I improved I began to become more and more impressed with my sound. If we ever think of ourselves too highly, we will become complacent, and any self-improvement after that is surely lost. What I have learned for 3 semesters as a Whiting undergraduate, is that I can’t be satisfied with my knowledge and my performance. I can always do better. Some freshmen come into engineering with too large of an ego to survive the environment, and they don’t last. Even though engineering students often complain about everything (the beginning of this blog), we stick it through. We will walk the stage at graduation, and that’s because we have accepted what our program’s goal is, and that is to make the best and most qualified engineers that it can.