I’m finally on Winter break after 3 months
in the wilderness at Dartmouth. My last final was on November 22nd. It feels good to catch my breath, but I miss campus and my friends so much already! It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted on here so I decided to do a Q&A that sums up my first Ivy League academic experience.
What classes did you take?
I took French 1, Computer Science 1, and an introductory Philosophy course.
How are you already on break and why did you only take 3 classes?
I get this question a lot because it’s hard to imagine how taking a mere 3 classes can cause so much stress. 3 words: The Quarter System. Our year is divided up into quarters instead of semesters. Because our grading period is much shorter than normal (~10 weeks), taking 3 classes a term keeps us plenty busy. Our professors try to cram as much as they can into our brains in so little time that we end up going crazy a few weeks in. For example, we learned the entire Python language last term! While this isn’t a huge feat, I imagine that as I advance into higher-level courses, it will be challenging to understand more complex material in just 10 weeks. The nice thing is that we get a whopping month of winter break to de-stress before starting again.
What was your hardest class?
Computer Science was by far my hardest class. I’m not exactly “wired” for the more technical side of thinking. I wanted to challenge myself to cultivate that part of my brain so that I could eventually bridge the gap between art and logic. It was very hard for me because it required an entirely different way of approaching problems than I was used to. There were times when I would be up at 3 in the morning just trying to fix bugs in a lab. The workload was so heavy that I often had to do my other classes’ assignments at the last minute. This was the class that made me say “Woah, I’m really going to an Ivy League school”. It took a lot of patience, motivation, and perseverance.
My final grade left me a little disheartened. I ended with a C+, which is pretty much an F on my Nigerian parents’ grading scale. It was a shock to realize I didn’t have much to show for all the hard work I’d done. It’s not the end of the world by any means, though. It will take some extra work in the following terms to ensure that I correct the course my GPA is going, but I’m up for it.
What was the workload like?
Computer Science: 10-12 hours a week on short assignments and labs
French: 1-2 hours a week on textbook work
Philosophy: 2-3 hours a week on readings to discuss in class
How were your grades?
Computer Science: C+
How did you manage schoolwork and extracurriculars/fun?
Hey, remember how I was all “Oh yeah I’m going to join all the clubs and groups and be involved in everything!“? Well that didn’t really happen. I chickened out of joining The Dartmouth, and I didn’t make the club volleyball team (I was pretty rusty after not playing for 3 years). While it’s a disappointing story to tell relatives when they ask what I’ve been up to, I’m glad I didn’t fill up my schedule because I ended up needing the time for Computer Science. I do still want to join The Dartmouth, though, and I’m trying to muster up the courage to apply next term.
As for fun stuff, it wasn’t extremely hard to manage it with schoolwork. Almost every student operated on the same going out schedule (Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays). It was easy to plan around these days to make sure I had my homework done before then so I could go out if I wanted to.
To sum it up, I had a little bit of a rough start to Freshman year academic-wise. But, who hasn’t? Sh*t’s tough. I still loved every moment of it, and I wouldn’t say the letters on my report card are an accurate reflection of how much I learned and experienced inside and outside the classroom. From a new and humbled perspective, I am super excited for next term.