The Hardest Part About Undergrad

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I thought I’d share with you the hardest part about the undergraduate, in my experience. You will be surprised, or perhaps not, to hear that it wasn’t a particular studio or subject, but rather a time period. I think what made this particularly hard was the amount of pressure I was putting on myself, and getting caught up in my head. In the end everything worked out, but now it’s time to take a quick look back.

Prior to starting university I had this mud map, start uni at 25 and graduate from undergrad at 27. Start masters right away and graduate by 29. By the time I was 31 I could register as an architect and start my own firm. Yes, it does sound crazy and highly unlikely, but for myself I put a lot of time-pressure on. Last year when I failed two subjects in the first semester it was a kick in the gut, but told myself “It’s alright, it will only be half-a-year pushed back” The real disappointment came when I saw that I failed another subject second semester last year, as it was then putting me back a whole year, but I tried to find the positives such as potential to work more.

Wind back to the first semester this year, repeating the two subjects had it’s challenges but I also learnt What to Do and What Not to Do. I wasn’t concerned about repeat failing as I felt confident in the work I produced, but still receiving the final grade there was a sense of relief.

With my final semester and having only the single subject, Construction and Structures 3, I was nervous. I knew my shortfalls but couldn’t find motivation to really address it, so I tried playing to my strengths. I was a bit better in the practical-side of the subject, maybe not knowing the exact terminology or equations but understanding the principles and ideas. First assessment we got like a HD, and second assessment we got a C. What was pressuring me was the required grade needed for the subject to help boost my average to enough to apply for Masters at different universities. However, I haven’t got to the hardest part yet.

The hardest part, or maybe more-so the hardest time period existed from the week before the exam until the results came out. I was extremely stressed for the exam, concerned I didn’t know enough and that I would fail. The idea of failing again, having to “waste” another year, made me feel sick. When I sat down at the exam, semi-confident, and opened the questions booklet my stress started to melt away. Reading through the questions I was confident I could answer them well enough, even the question about calculating loads.

After the exam I felt a little uneasy, thinking perhaps it was a little ‘too-easy’ and maybe I completely screwed up. The following days involved some brief conversations with classmates asking about the exam, yet my anxiety didn’t waive. Despite having similar answers to my more intelligent classmates, I was still nervous. Everything was out of my control, and I had to sit and wait for the results.

What was starting to get to me was when I tried expressing my nerves and stress about the result, friends would say something like ‘You’ll be fine‘ or ‘You will pass it easily‘ yet they didn’t actually realise how much more stressful it was to hear it. On one hand I didn’t want to appear confident and cocky, only to receive my results and see that I had fail. Nor did I want to exclaim that I have failed, and passed quite easily. In my mind I was generating all these scenarios, options and pathways depending on whether I passed, failed, got a good enough mark or didn’t score high enough. In a way it helped curb the stress as I had other viable options.

I managed to push it out of my brain for a few days, and about an hour before results were set to be released I remembered what day it was. Staring at my phone waiting for the text message, and the sudden churning of my stomach when I got a text from Deakin Uni. I was literally scared to open the message, however I took a deep breath and did. When I saw that I got 72, a D, one part of me was happy that I passed. I then quickly opened my spreadsheet to input the value so I could see what my total score was. When I saw that I got enough, when combined with my TAFE grades, to achieve a 67% average, that was when the stress was alleviated.

To summarise, the hardest part about this undergraduate degree was waiting for my final results, the nerves and stress was painful. I just couldn’t bear the idea of failing again, and I just wanted the whole thing over. Granted a lot of it was self-inflicted, as in the stress, sometimes you’re your own worse enemy.

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