Thump* thump* thump*
I tapped my pen as I tried to deconstruct the math problem in front of me. My eyes glanced at the clock to my right; it was only 1:30 am. I still had a lot to get done, and it was only week 3. The apartment was quiet, save for the scribblings of my pen and the typing sounds coming from my roommate’s room. I grabbed my mug to take a sip of tea, only to find it empty. I really needed the caffeine. I exhaled a breathe of frustration, for I was tired, weak, and already sick of this. A single thought crossed my mind. I don’t know if I can do this for another 7 weeks…
This was the scene of a typical night during my last winter quarter in school. 16 units was normally a regular load for me, but something about this combination of courses made it ridiculously difficult. That quarter, I took my last two core computer science classes, my last upper division math course to fulfill my minor and another CS elective (for I had finished my GE’s a couple quarters ago). I thought nothing would compare to the Spring quarter of 2012, where I took 18 units (optional senior project included). I thought I had college figured out. I would go through it 4 classes at a time. Sure, it was a little tougher with each quarter, but it was manageable. As long as I put in the time, the effort and the energy, it would all be okay. And then this quarter showed up and proved me wrong. It was riddled with tedious and long math homework, projects on projects, a research paper and so many tests.
Remember how I said earlier that I made an effort to always sleep by midnight and to get ample hours of rest? This was an exception, for after week 1, I was behind. And I’m not just saying that. My study habits had to be beefed up, for there just weren’t enough hours in a day. My new bedtime was 3 am, which gave me at best, 6 hours of sleep. But there were many nights where I received far less. The thing about 6 hours of sleep is that it gives you enough energy to get to class and barely pay attention. Due to the difficulty, I had to step down from my extracurricular projects (UAV Club Quadrotor project and the Northrop Grumman sponsored UGV project). Each day was a struggle. I would wake up, feeling dissatisfied with sleep. I would have class from essentially 9 am to 5 pm with odd gaps in between (not worth it to bike back for about an hour). Because of that, I had to lug everything with me when I biked to campus. I would have my 17″ laptop, my nalgene, my canteen full of hot black tea, my lunch and sometimes I even had to pack dinner. All these goodies along with my notebooks, books and bike lock.
And that was just the day. I would then come back and proceed to immediately cook dinner, clean up and then pause to take a breather and have yet another cup of tea. Then, from 7 – 3 am, I would diligently work on my programming projects, math homework, and anything to stay on track or if I was lucky, to get a little ahead. Any free time I had was allotted to preparing small group, leading small group, applying for jobs or nerd talk with Cheeseburger Eddie (my roommate).
He was unfortunately having an equally rough quarter. He stayed up late with me. It was considered a good night for him if he was able to sleep before me. We were bachelors to the rapture (as he called it). There was a consolation prize for this quarter though. Being awake in the wee hours of the night meant that it was regular study time for my cousin doing medical school in Hawaii. We spent many a night together on facetime.
He kept me focused. Mainly because in his presence I had nothing to complain about, since medical school is exponentially harder. It definitely helped the weekend feel like it was coming faster. Fridays were great because that meant I got to sleep at midnight and wake up at 9 or 10 the next day. On Saturdays I would catch up on chores or slow roll through homework to get a head start. Since, after church on Sunday, It was back to the study till 3 am routine. But that was an ideal weekend. For there were a couple weekends in that quarter where I had to inconveniently go home for a family event or something. I couldn’t do homework at home, because I was often forced to help my sister with HER programming projects. One time I had to take care of her for a weekend. She refused to stay alone at her apartment and my brother refused to house her in the house he owns. I could barely accommodate myself, and yet I was tasked with this? Not worth.
When times got tough, I wouldn’t have time to do groceries over the weekend, so some meals were as ghetto as a bag of chips over a bowl of rice. There was one time when I finished my programming project that I realized in about half an hour, the sun would rise. My tea canteen emptied pretty fast that day. I couldn’t even fully enjoy the times John and Darren visited for Annex, since that was 3-4 hours I spent not working on stuff.
I’m not sure how I got through that quarter. Obviously, none of it was possible without God. But I feel like I traded 10 years of my life to get through those 11 weeks. The light at the end of the tunnel would always seem so far away. I just kept my chin up and grinded through it a day at a time. I guess I’m thankful for that quarter, since it gave me a new meaning to “hard mode” and Spring break never felt so glorious. I’m a stronger person because of it.
What was your hardest quarter of college like?