By Bentic Sebastian
"Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood." - Marie Curie
I was a bit frightened about the amount of new material that I would learn about when I came to the University of Illinois, but now I’m enjoying the experiences and learning to make the most of them.
I feel that my academic life is much better off now than it was last year. I am more organized now. I know how to use office hours properly. And I have some knowledgeable friends who I can discuss concepts and doubts with.
Last year, I was very confused about how to go about organizing my schedule. In my first semester here, I didn’t understand the columns in the registration section, and I ended up choosing classes which were as late as 5pm! Registration happens on the UIUC self service website.
Last year I didn’t go for office hours. I did not know what office hours were, to be honest. There were times when I used to spend unnecessary amounts of time on trying to figure out how to solve a question, when I could have learnt better and faster if I met with the professor or TA and asked my doubts to them. Of course, professors can be busy and tired too, which is why I learnt to be efficient about my visits to the professor’s office. I started using office hours in my second semester. I used to write down all the doubts I had on a sheet of paper. This way, I could see if there were any similar questions which could be merged into one. When I was in the professor’s office, I was also able to keep the conversation going since I had all the questions down on paper.
I found it very tedious in my first semester to check for homework. I used to miss a lot of assignments in my first semester, just because I wasn’t aware that there was work due for a particular day. In my first semester, I had to use LON-Capa, and a host of other websites. Now, I make sure that all the websites that I have to check on a daily basis(not including Facebook !) are placed on my bookmarks tab on my web browser.
In my first semester here, I once went to my Math 225 class, and found out as I sat down, that we were having a midterm test that day! I completely forgot about the date of the midterm test. I found it very hard to keep track of dates and events in university. The syllabus is a very important document because it has information about office hours and exam dates. This semester I made a note of the dates and made sure that I knew in advance when this was held. I now have a tablet, which sends reminders to me about these dates, which is very useful.
In my first semester, I also found it difficult to find study buddies. Since I was new, I didn’t have enough time to find reliable friends who I could work with. Working in a group would have definitely helped me save time and helped me learn faster. But I find office hours the best way to learn because the professor would know how to clear out my doubts in a matter of minutes!
In retrospect, I find that there were aspects I could have done better in my first semester here, but I couldn’t have known how to be better prepared for the academic lifestyle without experiencing it first-hand.