This Semester is Kicking my Arse!

Today’s blog post comes to you in eleven parts, for no apparent reason.

1) Is “arse” technically a curse word?

2) I’m practicing my British lingo because I will (hopefully) be studying abroad in about nine months, and I will hopeful be going to the homeland… England! (ps that was a joke, I’m an American! When I bleed my blood comes out red, white, and blue! Oh… those are England’s colors too… or should I say colours.)

3) Sorry, I’m feeling a bit “cheeky” (is that the right word?)

4) It’s midnight and I’m a sleep deprived college student. That is my excuse.

5) Oh yeah, that leads me to the point of this blog: this semester is kicking my… well you know what I mean!

6) You’ve probably deduced this from my deteriorating state which can be observed in the previous 113 words (word count is awesome). I’m very stressed out.

7) Why don’t I go to bed? you ask. Good question… I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

8) Oh yeah, I’m a college student, we do stupid things. I may have a 3.98 GPA (yes, I’m bragging) but I still do stupid things. (Not sure why the 8 turned into a smiley face, but I like it! Or is that only on my computer?)

9) Oh yeah, back on topic: I want to curl up into a ball until the semester ends and then have my mommy and daddy pack up my things and take me home.

10) Really? No, not really! Have you ever been to college? It’s the best thing ever (so far)! Despite sleep deprivation, sickening amount of stress, boring food, lack of money, never-ending pile of homework, tests that take three hours, financial aid freak outs, professors who are seemingly Martians, roommates who sleep talk… where was I going with this? Oh yeah, despite the long, long list of ways in which college sucks I’m going to be really sad for this semester to end because I’ve had so many great times and met so many wonderful people. And I’m going to be exploding (ok, a bit of an overstatement) with excitement to return in the fall.

11) But first I have to survive the next two weeks.

Choosing a University to Study Abroad at is Stressing Me Out!

            It is so much easier to plan for something that is completely hypothetical. When I was researching study abroad programs a few months ago it was easy to find a school, make my decision, and fall completely in love with my plan. But that was before I was seriously thinking it would be an actual possibility. Now that I’ve met with a faculty advisor at my college to get things rolling it is much more difficult. I had to throw away my initial plan because I’m going with a different program, and I’m fine with that. The initial excitement about the school I had chosen began to wear off as the fear of such a venture started to creep in.

            So now I’m on the hunt once again! And now that it’s for real I’m finding it much harder. There are so many things to consider and so many aspects that seem so important. I’m going to apply to a program in which I choose a few school (1st choice, 2nd choice, etc…) and will be placed in one. So no matter how much research I do to choose the perfect school for me (out of about twelve choices in the UK) I might not end up going there. This is both frightening and exciting. There is a sense of fate guiding me to the school that is right for me (I know, this sounds like bs, but I’m going to call it optimism). Still, I’m going to make sure that all of my top three choices will be good places for me.

            Apparently I’m kind of picky, because so far I’m finding flaws in all of the schools. One of my number one worries: bars (pubs), drinking, and partying. Every school I look at has at least one bar on campus (some have two or three) and the students all seem to enjoy drinking and partying on a regular basis. I know, this shouldn’t worry me because despite the assumption that all college students in the US party and drink in excess I know this isn’t true. I’ve found my niche at my current college, almost none of my friends party and I’ve never even been offered a drink (although I’m at the point where I do want to experience a college party at least once). This may seem like a rarity, but I know plenty of people who don’t drink and aren’t pressured to. And if I do study in the UK I want to have at least one drink at a pub (“when in Rome”). I want to experience all the culture has to offer, and that includes going to a few parties. But I don’t want to return home after a semester abroad and be complete alcoholic (I know it’s not the most rational fear, but many people in my family have drinking problems, which is the number one reason I’ve stayed away from alcohol my whole life). So, basically, I’m worrying about something that is probably avoidable and will more than likely not be a huge issue. I have a feeling there will be much more unnecessary worrying to come in this process.

            As I’m coming to the end of my search (I only have a few days left to decide) I’m really beginning to realize the things that matter to me the most. I can’t avoid the drinking, and every school I’ve looked at seems to have at least a decent English program, so what really matters to me is how easy or hard it is going to be for me to make friends. I think this has always been my number one worry, and probably will be right up until I get there (actually, it will probably continue to be my number one worry right up until I’m back in the US and it’s all over). So the issues that I’m considering most in my decision are housing, orientation, and support for international students. Housing seems to be easy enough to figure out (and helped me cut a few colleges off of my list), but orientation information for spring semester is proving to be difficult. Many schools have great orientations for students studying in the fall, but seem to offer very little for those starting half way through the academic year in the second semester. I’ve searched the websites diligently and scoured the internet, but I’m still not getting all the information I want.

            Another aspect which I never even thought of before is actually playing a big role in my decision process: airport pickup. Ok, now I just seem finicky. But really, nothing sounds more scary than getting off of a plane at a major airport in a foreign country, going to a train to take you to the city, then finding a taxi to take you from the train station to the school, and then standing in front of this university with no idea of where to go. Add to this the facts that I’ve never been on a plane before, I’ve never even been in an airport, I’ve never traveled alone, and the most traveling I’ve ever done was a cruise to Baja California with my entire family. So the above scenario is absolutely terrifying to me. The university that has made it to number one on my list claims that they will pick you up from the airport, take you to the school, and help you settle in. Maybe they were exaggerating a bit on their brochure, but it sure does sound better than the alternative.

            So, these are the things that are concerning me as I make this important decision. If you are reading this and have studied abroad or are planning to I would love to hear about your challenges and experiences!

Why Do I Act Stupid?

 Warning: Long reflection/rant ahead. If you want the short version just read the first and last paragraphs.

            It really bothers me when people (mostly my roommate/best friend who I spend most of my time with) remark at how bad I am at math or lacking in knowledge of science. But then I realize that the only reason they think what they think is because of my actions and what I have told them.

            As an English major I bash my math skill on a daily basis, but I’m not actually bad at math. Granted, I’m not great at math, but I’ve never had major problems understanding any math class I’ve taken. I got an A in every math class I took between seventh grade and tenth grade. Then I took a two-year break from math, which resulted in a poor SAT score and a C in my final semester of math. But I fully believe that if I had studied more I would have done fine on the SAT’s (I literally hadn’t had a single math class in two years at the time of the test, and I didn’t study for the SAT’s because I was going through a very difficult time in my life), and that class I got a C in could easily have been an A if I hadn’t had such a long break from math. In college I’ve gotten A’s in the low division course I had to take to make up for my SAT score and the statistics class I took last term as a general ed. requirement. These are low-level math classes, but not everyone gets A’s in them or even passes. I’m not bragging, that’s not the point of this post (and I don’t think anything I’ve said is worth bragging over), I’m simply trying to show that math has never been an issue with me. So why do I act like I’m barely proficient in math? Why is it that no one I’ve met in college would ever believe me if I said I like math (which I honestly do – to an extent)?

            I have the same problem with science. I used to love science, but even as my feelings changed I was able to achieve A’s in every science class I took. I realize that grades are not always indicators of who is smartest or best at a subject, but they at least show that I’m competent. So why is it that if you ask my roommate about my knowledge with science she would tell you that I’m a complete idiot?

            To be blunt: it’s all my fault. Yes, my lovely roommate can be a bit harsh, but she didn’t just assume I was stupid. I sometimes catch myself acting stupid and wonder how long I’ve been doing that. Do I just start acting stupid out of nowhere? Or am I constantly in a state of pretending? I don’t know the answer, but it is time to change. I’ve come up with two possible reasons why I act like I’m stupid (in hindsight, I’d hardly call these “reasons”, but here they are nonetheless):

            (1) I may have acted stupid in high school too, but it was never an issue because people knew I was smart. Although I was quiet and never shared my grades with anyone unless asked (which was rare because people rarely talked to me), it was fairly well-known among my classmates that I got A’s on almost everything. Because I was so shy and quiet, I rarely joked with anyone. So, I wouldn’t have pretended to be stupid because I simply didn’t talk much, and even if I did act stupid the people around me knew I wasn’t. Not to mention the fact that in high school the people I surrounded myself with were the AP and Honors kids, and we mostly took all of the same classes. So one person couldn’t claim that their classes were harder than another’s. In college, my best friend is a science major and therefore takes high level math and sciences class, whereas I take high level English classes. She doesn’t say so out loud (often), but I know she thinks her classes are harder (and I can’t say that she’s wrong in thinking that). So it’s easier for her to judge me. If I act stupid, she’s going to believe I’m stupid because she has no reason to believe otherwise.

            (2) People have told me that others are intimidated by someone who is smart and gets all A’s. I was so eager to make friends in college that I didn’t want to push people away by seeming too smart. So I put this wall up around me faults (real or imagined) because I felt it would make me more likeable. No one likes people who are (or think they are) perfect. Not that I am, or have ever thought that I am, perfect. My list of faults is long, and I will be the first to point out things that are wrong with myself. But for some reason I felt that I needed to downplay the one thing that I was actually confident about. I’m not great at science or math or history, but I am great at being a student. That is one thing that I know for sure. I can get an A in a subject that I’m not talented in, I can do well on tests without studying, I will stay up as late as I need to in order to finish an important assignment. Personally, I’ve never really liked people who were good at something without really trying. So I think that part of me felt guilty about being able to be an A student with less effort than others (not to say I didn’t work hard at it), and I wanted to downplay my academic achievements. I never share test grades unless someone asks, because I don’t want to be that girl bragging about getting 97% when the person next to me got 70% (or worse, that person who complains or criticizes themselves even though they did better than most of the people around them). And then there is always that advice in the back of my head: “boys don’t like smart girls”. I don’t know where I first heard this, and I’ve certainly never taken it to heart. But when all the evidence around you seems to support this statement, it’s hard to push it aside entirely. (Also, I would like to add, this wall I’ve put up around myself comes down a bit when I’m around my roommate, because she is the best friend I’ve ever had and sometimes you just don’t want to close yourself up. But when I do share my grades or my GPA with her I can tell she doesn’t particularly like it. Perhaps it’s because she thinks her classes are more difficult and she deserves my 3.95 GPA more than I do. Perhaps this is one reason why she, more than anyone else, remarks on my supposed inability to think scientifically. Because she knows my GPA and yet I still act stupid in some ways. I can see how that would be annoying: someone who is seemingly not-very-bright but is doing better academically than you. Although, I think we both know that an environmental science degree is more highly regarded than an English degree).

            I suppose it doesn’t really matter why I act stupid, and I’m not sure that either of the above stated “reasons” are reasons at all. Either way, reflecting on issues such as this often leads to clarity. What conclusion have I come to? No matter the reason I started acting stupid, no matter if I’m actually stupid or not, regardless of test scores or grades I know myself better than anyone and it is up to me to depict myself how I want to be seen. Old habits are hard to break, but the only solution is to stop acting like I’m incompetent in math and illogical about science. I deserve to be seen for who I am, and accepted for who I am, but first I need to see myself and accept myself as I am.