Coming into this year, I anticipated that it would be taxing but not as much as it was. I was taking my first couple of 5000-level courses in Physics, both at the same time, and I moved up to 3000-level courses and 4000-level courses in my minor. I also had to balance my research with Dr. Chowdhury at the same time. However, I was optimistic. Up to that point, I was not only managing but succeeding at my courses with not too much difficulty. I was going to become Master of Activities in the French club. I had managed to build a UV addition to the laser for a collaboration between my lab and another lab in a different department, which looked like it would pay dividends.
The first hurdle was in the 5000-level physics courses, Honors Quantum Mechanics and Honors Electricity and Magnetism. The classes seemed easy enough to manage on my own at first. However, as we got deeper into the material, I fell behind. Not eager to repeat the same mistakes as the year before, I pushed myself to get help, to work with my fellow classmates, and to focus more of my time and energy on these courses. All the same, my capability began to degrade. At the same time, some of my classmates seemed to get it effortlessly, to do so even on their own, and sometimes even appear one step ahead while it was all I could do to stop myself from falling too far behind. I could not shake the feeling that I did not belong, that I might be doomed to mediocrity.
At the same time, my research project hit a wall. There was no funding for the other group to continue it, and so there was nothing more that could be done. I was forced to move onto other experiments and start over. Where my other peers were advancing, I was always going backward. This doubt prevented me from seeing and really enjoying even some of my successes like when my team won the HackOhio competition and I could not stop doubting my contribution.
It took me a while to break out of it. It started with the realization that my classmates’ success was not so effortless, that all of us were feeling the pressure. It was then that I began to regain some of my confidence. From then on, I still put in the same amount of effort and felt the same pressure, but I could see it in a different light as someone competent not hopeless. My professor and I were able to find a new project, a summer internship with Wright Patterson in high performance computing.
This next year looks no easier than the last. I still have more high-level Physics courses coming my way. As the new president of the French club, I am more responsible than ever for the club. On top of that, I will work towards a publication, a contribution of my own to the field, at the undergraduate level and an honors thesis. Graduate school applications are quickly approaching. But I am excited about it, excited to be moving forward again.