Controlled Burn

College is hard. Midterm grades are up and I’m hanging onto my A’s by only a thread. The last few weeks I haven’t had time to study outside of class, and lectures alone are not enough for me to learn the material. I watched grades slide in two of my classes from best-of-class to low 90’s. Accounting is still easy for me; I am even able to do homework during class while tuning out of lectures, but I’m several weeks behind in Chinese. The professor gives class instructions and announcements in Chinese and I can only return a blank stare and hope I’m not missing things important.

A typical day begins around 6:30-7am with coffee and bagels and the Wall Street Journal. I try to go for a short run around campus to wake up, then shower, fill the backpack with books, and head out the door. I ride the bike up over the mountain between my room and the business college, dodging peds, bikes, and longboards, and arrive winded and fully awake. My first class is on the fourth floor and I usually take the stairs for the exercise. I meet with my study team a few minutes before class begins at 9:10 and we catch up on news, class-related and otherwise. I sit through a 50 minute lecture on accounting principles. After class I have 20 minutes before the next one begins. Sometimes I go downstairs to the Jazzman’s Cafe for a coffee, but usually I find a breakout room and log onto a computer to work on homework or email for a few minutes. Sometimes I take a power nap in an armchair or drop into a professor’s office.

Micro-economics class is at 10:20 and it’s always hard for me to stay awake through this one. The professor is not at fault; he’s quite entertaining and I appreciate his dry Wisconsin farmer humor. The drowsiness sets in when I realize how clueless I am about economic terms. And, no matter how many stars I put in my notes to study this or study that, they go unnoticed because the notebook is rarely opened outside of class. Hence the falling grades.

After economics I have one hour to bike a mile and find lunch before the next class begins. First I stop at my room and unload the backpack and fill it with a different set of books. Then I go to one of a dozen nearby restaurants for lunch, usually alternating between on and off campus places throughout the week. Chinese class begins at 12:40 and I usually remember what I vowed to study and see my starred notes when I’m seated in the classroom, and so begin a frantic review. The first 20 minutes of class we usually watch a Youtube video on some random Chinese topic, and the next 30 minutes is spent teaching –yes teaching- the rest of the class Chinese. The professor has the students take turns teaching 3 days a week; he teaches the last day of the week and corrects all our errors. The good part is that the student/teachers learn their part of the lesson really well, and the others –I don’t think they learn very well. Conditions are ripe to be humiliated, as I found out last week when my PowerPoint slides were misspelled and had numerous grammatical errors. Mistakes are pretty common tho, because the teachers are learning the same content they are teaching. The class sizes, an NAU strongpoint, are all small and I know all of my classmates by name.

Chinese class is over at 1:30, and I often go straight to work afterwards. It takes a few minutes to ride back to my room, then depending on traffic, it can take 10-30 minutes to drive the six miles to my job. By 5 or 5:30 I am headed back to my room. I stop somewhere for dinner or cook a little something to eat when I get home. Around 7 I have a meeting to attend or a study group meeting to go to. By 9 I’m usually free and can wrap up the homework I’ve been working on in spurts all day. Midnight is my usual bedtime.

This week was particularly harrowing with 4 exams, job interviews, career fair, and a full work schedule. Wednesday I accepted a slot for a dental checkup from a dental hygienist student who needed a patient for her lab session. I was ashamed to admit that it’d been 14 years since I’d last been to a dentist for a checkup, but my mouth passed with highest praise from the dentists on duty. They all thought I had worn braces as a kid –nope- because everything was straight. Not even any bad gums or cavities –don’t you ever eat candy? The student hygienist was very thorough and went through my entire mouth, measuring and cataloging each and every tooth. She took x-rays all around and a real dentist evaluated me. I need to return in the future for polishing and whitening. Most of this work is free, although they did charge $25 for the x-rays, which I thought was pretty reasonable.