From "Dammit I'm not getting a 100" to "50 is good enough"

It’s been awhile since I last posted on my blog – 4 months 7 days to be exact! Well it’s not like anyone cares or even about read this blog so I guess it doesn’t really matter. For those that do care (I pity you for reading this nonsense), I spent the last four months studying at University of Waterloo.

I decided against my lazyness to apply and somehow got accepted into Software Engineering – one of the busiest programs for first-years.

When I said it’s one of the busiest programs for first-years, I meant it! I literally had classes from 9:30am to 5:20pm everyday with an one hour lunchbreak in the middle. Then again, I guess all engineering programs at Waterloo are just as busy but I still feel that this is way too much work for anyone to deal with – it’s more than a standard work day if I add up the time spent on assignments.

Back in high school, I only had 2 demanding courses and two bird courses. In my first term of University, I had 5 demanding courses and only 1 bird course. This sudden spike in workload was quite a difficult transition.

However, humans are extremely adaptable. By the time midterms was over, I was already in the work-sleep-repeat state-of-mind. I guess I owe it to my professors aiming for a 50 class average for midterms and 70 average for finals. That 48 that I got on my physics midterms was hell of a wakeup call – it was afterall worth 20% of my final grade.

I guess it can’t be helped. Afterall, who’d want to go to a university that gave everyone free marks? My classmates and I all entered this program with around 90 average so unless we’re all grad-study-worthy, 90 isn’t a realistic class average. To maintain the university’s good name, the professors designed their exams to achieve that target average regardless of the context to lectures. All the questions still apply the knowledge learned from class but the difficulty of the application varied from normal to extremely difficult.

When finals started last week, I was only focusing on eatting, sleeping, pooping, and studying. I think the worst part of finals week was the pressure of failing any exam meant failing a course and wasting the thousands spent on tuition. Sigh, I miss the good ol’ days of high school when I could’ve passed all my courses even if I didn’t bother showing up for any of my final exams.

It’s over!

Those where the first three words that popped into my header on last Friday at 11:30 am when I finished my last exam. I no longer cared whether or not I pass or failed – I just wanted to get on that bus at noon and get back to Toronto.

Now, it’s Sunday night and I’m fully recovered from all those sleepless nights. Ok maybe not fully but at least I’m awake enough to type with half decent grammar. Looking back at my first term, it wasn’t really all that bad:

I tried a lot of new food and actually learned how to prepare some basic meals. I think my favorite was the different styles of sweet-and-sour chicken at the cafeteria and local restaurants. I’ll need to remember to take a photo of this dish once I get a new smartphone this Boxing Day.

I’ve also met a lot of new and interesting people as well. Surprisingly, most of my TA’s (teacher’s assistants) already have their PhD’s or will get it soon. But my favorite TA was my computer science TA; he was once a programmer for Microsoft and talked a lot about common practices in the industry. Most of my classmates are just as impressive as well. I have classmates who already have their own startups and/or been to Google’s summer code camp. It’s accomplishments like these that make me feel proud to study at Waterloo because, as cliche as it sounds, this is where the best and brightest minds study.

Overall, university was pretty stressful on my mind and body but the experiences and memories were worth all the studying. Only 14 more days until I get to restart the cycle!

Stephen Li
Stephen Li

I am a remote freelance software developer living in Waterloo, Canada. I am also currently working on an unannounced indie game.