I came out of my first quarter at the UW feeling pretty confident about my chances at success in the quarters to come. I'd achieved a GPA just shy of the dean's list threshold and 4.0'd two of my six classes, all while having a mixed bag of profs, having to adjust to new routines away from home, and maintaining a healthy social life to boot. I could do this college thing!
Or, occasionally, maybe I couldn't.
• CHEM 152, the second quarter of weed-out general chemistry classes required for most STEM majors
• ENGL 182, a composition class focused on establishing command of multiple modes of communication in tandem (and a lot of extra reading because it was an Honors section)
• MATH 125, the second quarter of weed-out calculus classes required for most STEM majors, this one being focused on integral calculus
January 30, 2020
After finishing MATH 124 last quarter with a 3.6, I felt like I was ready to tackle yet another math class that, ideally, would feature calculus concepts that amounted to review of the calculus class I took in my junior year of high school. However, I inadvertently signed up for a class taught by a professor whose teaching style I did not understand, among other issues. It's unfortunate and it happens to everyone at some point (or many points) in their college careers, but I had been fortunate to have fantastic instructors through my high school career and did not know what to do in the face of this specific adversity this early into my college career. The 67/100 score (which was around 10 points under the average for this test) on the first MATH 125 midterm of the quarter, pictured to the right, served as a wake-up call that not only was I woefully underprepared to face the tough calculations that MATH 125 involves, but also that I had not mastered studying yet despite getting good grades in the previous calculus class.
After getting the exact same score on the second midterm and seeing the final eventually cancelled due to coronavirus concerns, I got my lowest grade in a UW class to date—a 2.7—in MATH 125. I had more work to do to get good at this college thing.
February 8, 2020
Similarly to MATH 125, I thought my quarter in ENGL 182 was going well before the first major multimodal project of the quarter. I started my preparation of a creative synthesis based on two class texts excited about applying the ideas on literary context and multimodality to a real-world YouTube example; however, after completing both my MATH 125 and CHEM 152 midterms in the week before the project was due, I found myself having too little of the project done for me to feel comfortable submitting it. Being the perfectionist that I am, I stayed up until 5 am the morning after it was due to complete a version of the project that was shortened from my original proposal, only to find out that the Canvas portal where I was supposed to submit this project closed 4.5 hours prior. This email is what I sent to my ENGL 182 professor after this realization.
This was yet another wake-up call for me, as I realized that my high school habits of staying up late to do my homework no longer worked.
Sleep-deprived me is still really polite, somehow.
major major decisions
February 14, 2020
Part of being a freshman in the engineering program at UW is that one is majorless in their first year rather than coming in with a major declared (like the Computer Science or Biochem programs). Instead, all freshmen have a major of "Engineering Undeclared" and participate in major exploration through seminars, clubs, and prereq classes before requesting "placement" in a major after three or four quarters in the program. Every freshman who comes in as Engineering Undeclared is guaranteed an engineering degree by the end of their fourth year of undergrad, but they are not guaranteed their exact first choice of major (meaning the placement process is arguably Competitive Majors Lite).
I knew as soon as I entered my studies at the UW that I wanted to get rid of my Engineering Undeclared status and place into an engineering major as soon as I could, which meant that I would most likely request one major after my spring quarter of freshman year. After I made that decision, the next decision that came was the arduous process of deciding what major I actually wanted to prioritize for placement. I had struggled with figuring out what my undergrad major would be exactly since starting college applications in my senior year of high school—at the schools where I applied into engineering programs, I requested to be admitted into civil engineering, just because I thought building roads could be cool. However, that year, I experienced a pretty radical shift in my interests, as I found that product design blended my interests in science and in art pretty well.
I liked making things, so what major at UW would give me the skills and technical background I needed to design consumer products and larger manufacturing systems sustainably and efficiently? The Human-Centered Design & Engineering major, which I explored partly through taking HCDE 210 last quarter, turned out to be focused more on virtual prototyping rather than physical products.
This multiple-year-long process of figuring out what major would be a good first step towards my career goals culminated in an adviser meeting on Valentine's Day this year. When I came out of it, I sent the excited text pictured to three of my friends who'd seen me go through this entire process. Quite weird to have this long process represented by a single text, yet this moment was maybe the most blissful I'd experienced this quarter. I feel more confident about what kinds of work I want to do in my four years here.
a stressin' lesson
March 19, 2020
A lot of things happened between the start of the new year and the final week of winter quarter. Between facing increased involvement at my work and in extracurriculars, family issues, bad midterm and project grades, and the coronavirus making landfall in Seattle, my life felt like it was falling apart by the time week 10 rolled around. While I had a hard time completing the first major project for ENGL 182 this quarter, my anxiety had become so debilitating by the end of the quarter that I had failed to turn anything in for the second major project for the class, which fell right after my second CHEM 152 and MATH 125 midterms. This didn't leave me at a good spot for final grades, so when I fled campus and moved back in with my parents, I found a (thankfully) nourishing environment that I could buckle down in and make all the last-minute pushes and changes to my work that I needed to do in order to come out of winter 2020 less scathed.
The final project for ENGL 182 is a portfolio that showcases assignments from the quarter and establishes a narrative around that work in a multimodal way. I created a magazine feature spread (shown here) that related my work through the quarter (or lack thereof) and some of the stresses that I'd experienced at the same time through the stress-strain curve, a diagram of material properties used in engineering. This portfolio gave me an opportunity to reflect on my actions throughout the quarter and identify opportunities to destress, especially as I might need it for spring quarter—one that's shaping up to be my hardest quarter yet.