Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Well, I have finished one exam, and have three more to go.

It's an interesting feeling to feel fairly comfortable with your exams in advance of them. Today, in my fire dynamics exam, I thought I did fine. Not spectacular, not poor, just fine. And I was not terribly stressed leading up to the exam.

I have two more exams tomorrow, and, tonight I was able to quit my studies early, enjoy the haggis, mashed potatoes, and mashed turnips my landlord prepared, have a glass of wine, and watch tv. Probably more relaxing than any normal Tuesday night the last 6-8 weeks.

It is a bit of an odd feeling, though, to be quite prepared when exams come. When I compare my undergraduate, I can't remember a time when I felt like I was really prepared for exams. I never felt like I knew the material very well. Here, I feel pretty prepared overall, withough much worry.

Going into the program, I knew it was going to be hard, and it certainly was hard. Parts of it were extremely difficult. I had to re-learn a lot of material I forgot from undergraduate sometimes, just to begin to understand new material that was presented. But I think the real reason I was ready is because I knew I wanted to be here, and dedicated myself more to the cause.

In fact, I must say, I'm not really even too concerned about the particular grades that I get. As long as I pass, that's fine. I think in undergraduate, I was more worried about the grades. Getting a job depended on good grades, so I really had to. Here, I don't care, I just want to learn and really understand the material, to make myself a better engineer when I'm done. I've worked in the fire field, and I will when I'm done. Fire is a small field where everyone knows each other, new things are always being developed, lots of knowledge is still to be uncovered, and knowing whats traditionally considered correct can even be a hindrance if you can't think for yourself and think outside the box. But a real understanding of the basics is really necessary for that. It requires a more fundamental understanding. So that's what I am going for. And in some classes, I don't feel an exam can justifiably test that particular aspect. 3 questions in 1.5 hours to sum up 3 months of intense learning is just not representative. I feel like I've spent a ton of time this semester studying my butt off (some of the undergraduates even think I'm smart and asked me questions in one class because I'm in masters program, imagine that!), my social life stunk a bit because of it, but I learned a lot, and as a result, am not stressed about exams, and am not really too concerned about the specific grades.

The University has really be pretty great though. Although my classes all felt pretty large, I still felt like I got to know my professors and they knew me at least a little bit (at least who I was). And all the professors, I really felt, are at the top of their fields, so the learning was top notch. With my fire dynamics class, the 10 people in our IMFSE program had separate lessons with Jose. In my finite element class, I was able to visit the professor several times, he had a separate class with us, and held a few extra sessions to help us as it was a pretty difficult class for us due to our varied backgrounds. Nonetheless, it was really challenging.

In the end, I actually feel 'smarter'. Whatever that means, based on your definition of smart. But I certainly know that I know more about something than I knew less about than before I started (that might not make sense, or it might, think about it). But it actually feels like I really did learn something and learn it well, not just learned it for a grade, or do a mediocre job, like it was so easy to do during undergraduate. Still remember my 5th year vibrations class from undergrad, one of the two or 3 hardest classes I have ever taken. The teacher stunk, the material was impossible to me at the time, and the exam was a cakewalk, so I got an A and I didn't learn much. Never used the material for even a split second afterward in work, but nonetheless...

Just a different mindset. Or, maybe I just summed up difference between a master's student and an undergraduate, ha!

I could complain about a few things, but I don't want to be a negative Nancy. So I'll leave with a few more pictures.

Off to more concentrated learning about fire in Sweden. Hooray!

The group with Jose (Never have I actually looked forward to a Monday morning lecture until Jose's class!):

Eduardo in front of our apartment building:

George & I at the beginning of the semester:

In front of the Kings Buildings (Engineering & Science Campus).

Ready to go to class:

Santa Stop here please:

Molisa scratching his heat (does it itch or is the material hard? haha).

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