Posted by: changheuk | December 25, 2010

A near-death experience yet again

So since this blog has become quite off-topic and emo for a majority of the time, lets summarize shortly what has occurred so far in my academic life (I don’t even want to call it a career).

Elementary school – average grades, did quite poorly for what my intellect was worth.

Secondary school – average grades affected by raging hormones, interest in females, MMORPGs. Managed to get into university due to an OVERLY-LENIENT retaking system for high school courses (you can basically retake a course 1-2 times and only the best mark counts).

University – Became free, skipped class whenever I wanted to, worked three, 8-hour part-time shifts per week. Failed the intro programming first first term, failed pretty much every course second term. Withdrew, went to community college for 2 years. Almost was rejected from UBC again, but appealed and they accepted me last minute. Had to go into Electrical Engineering as it was the easiest choice.


So far what do I think of engineering?

Is it tough?

The short answer is yes if you are not ready to put time in. You will have to learn to like what you are doing, even if you think the material is pointless. If you always hated the idea of writing essays, then be glad – you hardly have to write any words on any quiz or exam other than some super brief two word explanations. Math and physics are pretty much the pillars of engineering, and you will be using it a lot. Be prepared to learn about stuff that you have absolutely no idea how to relate to.

One thing I’ve learned this past semester

Having done my first semester of REAL engineering at UBC (first year is just all general crap, not much difference from a science student TBH), I think that to succeed, you will simply have to somehow attend most classes with the intent to LEARN. Do not fall behind. There is simply no advantage to falling behind and cramming.

Just like how you might feel distraught and depressed after a failure in general, the sooner you realize you will have to move on, the better. Its the same with school. The sooner you realize you’re going to have to learn the material anyway, the better.

Do not study with peers unless you know it will be effective. If you want to socialize-study, then go ahead. Its fun because you can sit there for a few hours with people but not be obligated to socialize properly because you are “studying”. Of course, its not like you can concentrate on studying that well either. This is different if you are studying with peers in your classes of course.

Most of the time the material that took me a long time to learn was NOT because of the difficulty – but my unwillingness to learn. My mind likes to naturally mess with me and place barriers, saying that some material is not understandable by humans. Bullshit. If you try to develop a clear image of what you are learning early, there should be no problems. Maybe a bit of memorization, relating to things you already know, but nothing hard. Ask the professor or TA if anything goes wrong. Ask dumb questions if you have to.

Idealities aside, what did I do wrong?

I felt like I could become social again because I was back at a university. Wrong. What really mattered is just the amount of social effort and confidence I put forth, nothing to do with how high my GPA was or what program I’m in. I fell behind in classes, in fact I believe from mid-October til the end of the term, I never went to a whole day of class where I didn’t sleep once. Mid-late November I actually went to school maybe once per week.

How I saved my ass and luckily still got a 74% average

74 isn’t that admirable. But for the amount of sh*t I was ready to face, I’m more than happy.

My workload this term was actually quite easy. I was crapping my pants for my first final in a course called Digital Logic, something which I never put forth the effort to learn because I simply thought it was too abstract. No. All I had to do was read the goddamn book. I never read it, and instead went online to forums, Wikipedia, looking for quick answers. Don’t do that. Online resources for upper-level courses are scarce, and Wikipedia isn’t that newbie friendly half the time once you are down 1/4 in to the article. If I read the textbook earlier, I would have done a LOT better. A LOT.

Multivariable Calculus was a retake. No surprises there. Though I did bomb the final even though I thought I aced it. This is something I’ll touch on another day. Doing poorly when you thought you did well is the absolute worse feeling you can get. Its basically like rolling a dice for the grade you’ll get.

There was a super easy course called Circuit Analysis. Look for good professors on, and take as much easy professor-taught courses as you can. You won’t regret it. Don’t go through the pain of challenging yourself to hard professors. You will regret it later.

A lab course. I don’t want to talk about how much I slacked for this course. Basically I did nothing and learned nothing.

Now for the reason why I put near-death experience as the title of this post. I was pretty, pretty, 100% pretty, pretty damn f-ing sure I failed a course called … wait I don’t even remember the name because I never really went to class. Its about the complex elements in a circuit – transistors, diodes. I don’t even know what the hell those are. The concept is very hard, and so are the calculations. There’s no easy way out of that course. I went into the final with 50%, failed the final, and somehow came out with 64%. All my friends that have taken this course before have failed. I seriously want to Thank the two professors, the TA’s of this course, Santa Claus, God (even though I’m atheist, but hell he might’ve listened to my prayers), and my sleep-deprived brain for letting me pass this course. I was crapping my pants during the final, because I only knew one out of twelve questions. That was a total scare. They must have scaled it hardcore.

So how do you prepare for super hard courses that are totally boring and complex? I don’t know. Just hope you go in class everyday with a learning, growth-oriented mindset and hope your brain doesn’t give you a kick in the nuts.

Some minor tips – hook yourself up with concise notes early and fast. I love notes where every possible case and aspect of a topic is shown, and their differences given for your brain to judge and examine. You’ll also need to know a bit of concept, and write down a list of “tools” that you can use to solve a question.


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