I can breathe now, but not for long.
I sit here on a Saturday following five of the most strenuous weeks that I
have faced so far here. I only have four classes, but they haven't been easy
and show no signs of letting up. My most recent project was submitted about
24 hours ago, giving me this opportunity to regroup and take care of some other
matters before the next one goes out on Monday. Even in the absence of any
part-time employment this semester, I frequently find myself strapped for time.
Of course, all this is just getting started.
In past semesters, I micromanaged my time: with as many as two part-time jobs, club activities, and a variety of classes, I tried to devote a little
time to each class every night. Now, most of my classes are project-driven,
foregoing rote learning in favor of large projects and opportunities to
demonstrate knowledge in a wider array of methods. For this reason, I devote
much larger blocks of time -- from two hours to an entire night -- for
individual projects. As expected, OS is occupying the lion's share of my time,
but there are days when I can focus more on other classes. Sometimes it gets
to be a bit much: I have pulled two all-nighters already this semester,
compared with three combined in the previous five semesters.
Looking at my schedule from a year ago,
intial experiences are highly deceiving. I did not include the 22 hours per
week that I invested into two desk jobs. Desk work is certainly not the
most grueling pursuit, but I gave up time that could have been used more
productively to make some extra money per week. This semester, my
schedule is much more relaxed in terms of work and
classes: without any time sitting behind a desk or answering student e-mail,
my official obligations are limited to just one class two days a week, and
three classes on the other three days. This is further complicated by the
fact that my first class on Monday, Wednesday and Friday starts at 10:30 AM,
but my only class on Tuesday and Thursday starts at 3:00 PM. So far,
this has led to two instances where a sleepless
night is followed by twelve or more hours of sleep the next night. I honestly
don't think I could handle a double- or triple-all-nighter, as trumpeted by
students and faculty alike, and I certainly don't intend to try it out. There
comes a point at around 3:00 or 4:00 AM when I feel that either I have the
energy to go the distance, or that I'm completely drained and must postpone
work until the morning.
Last semester, I had a roommate who would often stay up until 2:00 AM along
with me, although he spent most of those extra hours playing games while I
took care of my homework. Usually at around 2:30 or 3:00 in the morning, he
would announce that he was going to sleep, prompting me to either relocate to
our living room or agree with him. In a sense, he helped keep me to a somewhat
regular sleep habit. In December, he decided to move next door to take the
place of a friend who was graduating after four and one-half years. As luck
would have it, I am still occupying this double room all by myself, leading to
no shortage of personal space and room for additional stuff. If not for the
lack of sheets on what was once my roommate's bed, you wouldn't know that only
one person lived here. Still, without anyone to inadvertently wake me up in
the late morning or to encourage me to sleep at night, my schedule is becoming
more and more erratic. Sacrificing sleep to study is never a good idea, but
it is becoming a bad habit.
There's still the off-chance that Housing Services will place me with
a roommate who, for some reason, found it necessary to move in the closing
weeks of the academic year. From experience, this is unlikely to happen.
Three people, two male and one female, found themselves alone in double rooms
on my floor during freshman year. Only one was paired with a new roommate in
the very last weeks of the semester, for reasons I still don't understand.
Obviously, next academic year will be another story entirely. I can pull someone in as I did in this past year, but that's a decision that I can't
easly make right now.
As mentioned above, I'm working later and longer on just about every class.
However, my final Japanese class continues to be a struggle. As my other
classes are shifting towards projects, Japanese continues to revolve around
regular exercises. As a result, I have once again been devoting less time than
I should, leading to overdue and eventually abandoned assignments. As long as
I continue to do well on larger things such as essays and quizzes, this early
struggle will be counteracted as time goes on.
the road abroad
Despite two exams and a variety of other commitments this week, one goal
is key: get at least one study abroad application submitted. The six
organizations that the Modern Languages department recommends for study in
Japan are a veritable alphabet soup of choices:
While chances of me applying to more than two of these are slim to nil, I need
to get the paperwork moving while there is still time. With luck, I'll know
where I'm going in a month's time. I'm very excited to be able to do this,
and look forward to a great experience wherever I end up.
class by class
The early returns are mixed at best, but there's still hope.
15-412: Operating System Design and Implementation
As expected, this course is taking up an extraordinary amount of time, not
surprising considering that it is worth the most units of credit out of any
undergraduate course in the School of Computer Science. Fortunately, my
project partner -- and also my TA from Algorithms last semester -- is always
willing to work on the projects and certainly knows what he's doing. My
biggest concern through the first two projects is that I haven't been doing
enough to prepare for these projects, leading me to be dragged through the
crucial planning phases. The homework problem sets are reasonable right now,
but the infamous midterm exam looms in a few weeks' time.
36-247: Statistics for Lab Sciences
Dropped. I didn't need this class, and
it didn't need me: in the first lecture, the professor expressed concern at the
number of computer science majors forcing humanities majors onto a waiting list. Of course, most of those computer science majors are taking the course
to satisfy a requirement for a humanities minor or double-major. In any event,
this course requires a couple of hours a week for homeworks and labs, and that
is time that would be better spent on classes that actually matter for my
80-311: Computability and Incompleteness
Every semester, I tell myself that I won't be bothering with any more modern mathematics or theory. Then, I discover that I still need to. This course
features weekly problem sets about concepts that I don't fully understand,
dry lectures in a cramped lecture hall, and abstract subject matter that does
not interest me personally. This could be the biggest question mark on my
schedule this semester, but there's still room to drop it and stay at the
minimum courseload to remain a full-time student.
82-372: Advanced Japanese II
Still as difficult as last semester, but the schedule is much clearer this
time around. The professor is still willing to help, and often sends out
helpful e-mails with reminders about upcoming events and assignments. I
failed to complete a few assignments last week, but none of them were major.
With luck, I can finish out the first unit successfully.
82-374: Technical Japanese
An interesting course: so far we have tackled subjects like computer history, artificial intelligence, and bio-engineering -- all in an immersive
Japanese learning environment. The class is very small: just eight people,
nearly all of them at the advanced or higher level of Japanese. This is the
longest native-Japanese course that I have taken so far, at 80 minutes per
class, and the discussion-based nature of the course makes it necessary for me
to be alert and contributing for the duration.
an early finish?
My minor is finished after this semester, and I only have to take two
computer science electives to finish my B.S. in Computer Science. This means
that I face an unlikely decision: do I stay for the full year in 2002-03, or
will I declare myself finished after a mere seven semesters? I could also take
additional courses in computer science or modern languages, or even three
additional physics courses to gain a second minor. The final decision on this
won't come for another month or so, but I'm surprised just to see the
opportunity present itself.
Back to work I go.