The summer between my first year and second year of college, I worked three different jobs for 40+ hours every week. I worked remotely as an Office Assistant for the Canal Winchester Chamber of Commerce for 2-3 hours/week, as a Student Network Engineer at Ohio State for 21 hours/week, and as a Warehouse Associate at Amazon for 20 hours/week (and yes, working at Amazon is quite the workout). As summer drew to a close, I was surprised to find that I was somewhat relieved to be starting classes. I was ready to get back into a normal routine at a college that I had come to know and love. My classes this semester were all major focused, except for one GE Political Science class. This was the first semester that was focused almost entirely on my major, and I quickly began seeing the connections between my classes. I was writing programs in Software 2 that I was learning to analyze the run time of in Foundations 1, while also learning how to solve new programming problems with information learned from Introduction to Digital Logic and Linear Algebra. It was weird to have all of my classes interconnected in some way, but I really enjoyed it. I could more easily tell if I struggled with a concept in one class since I would get stuck on it in another class. I enjoyed being able to see all the connections between topics and being able to apply my knowledge to my primary focus of programming.
Although I enjoyed my course content more this semester than I have previously, I still had challenges. I had a couple professors who were known to be hard, so I was challenged to understand topics more than other people taking the class with different professors. I had to adjust quickly to different teaching styles and exam structures, but I am grateful that I am more able to adapt to these situations since completing my first year of college. Aside from coursework, I had an on-campus job that was pretty far from all my other campus activities. All of my classes and meetings were on north campus, and the building that I work in is on the south edge of campus. I had to carefully coordinate my class and work schedule so that the timing of catching a bus and the bus ride itself were taken into account when I was scheduled to go from class to work or vice versa. Along with a farther work commute, I was also working a job that was more intellectually challenging than any of my previous jobs. My job required me to write programs, learn how to implement them with networking devices, and debug them (for more information about what I worked on, check out my Python Scripts In the Real World artifact). The challenge of courses and work often amounted to long days that started with class as early as 8am and ended with work as late at 6:30pm. Long days made it harder to find time for homework and studying.
There were several occasions on which I got only a couple hours of sleep at night since I had to stay up late to finish homework or study for an exam. I quickly learned, unfortunately from first-hand experience, that not getting enough sleep the night before an exam is not good for academic performance. To prevent myself from doing too much work on the weekdays after a long day of class and work, I started doing a lot of homework on the weekend. I worked ahead as far as I could over the weekend and only left work for the weekdays when it was absolutely necessary. This helped me to get more sleep during the week, but I no longer felt like I had a break over the weekend. After a long summer of working 40+ hours every week and then going straight into a semester that required me to work through my weekends, I learned a lot about burning out. I had experienced burn out before after a challenging semester, but I always had an approaching break to look forward to. I originally planned to work part-time at Amazon again over winter break, but I knew that I needed to give myself a break instead.
I value my academic success and being able to pay for my own college. However, this semester taught me that I have to know my limits. I had worked so much over the summer and planned to work more over winter break to hopefully avoid taking out student loans for spring semester 2020. But I’d rather take out a small loan and have my sanity than have no loans and be on the verge of a mental break down. This wasn’t the lesson I expected to learn this semester, but it’s one that I don’t plan to forget anytime soon. Knowing my limits has helped me to better take care of myself mentally and emotionally, which is a skill that is more valuable than it seems. I hope to be well-rested with a fresh mindset to tackle my spring semester in January 2020 when classes start.