Midterms, homework, and mail disasters – it’s just another Californian week!

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It seems to be a common thing now for the week to get progressively worse and worse, before the flourish of another Monday banishes all the doom and desolation away.

To start with, the midterm in Heat Transfer last Monday could have gone better. Exams in America are slightly different to those in the UK, as it actually took place in a lecture hall. You are in close proximity to the people around you, and only have a little table to write on. To make matters worse, this table is not a square, but a funny trapezoid, and so it is easy to keep writing off the edge of the table, making the answer book a mess. The final nail in the coffin was that it was an open book exam, and so somewhere in these cramp confines you have to find space to keep opening a 2lb, 1000 page book.

I sat next to a rather rotund American, and felt rather uncomfortable throughout. There was also the rather disconcerting aspect that, if looked up I could see what page the other 9 people around me were looking at. As much as I tried not to. At moments like these, it is easy to instinctively think “why are they looking <insert word here> up?” I was definitely not on my usual exam form, and when I got stuck with a group dissecting the test afterwards, I realised I had made a number of elementary errors as a result. In some cases I even looked up and wrote down the correct properties, and then decided inexplicably to put another value in the calculator. I did not look forward to getting the marked test back.

Wednesday was another day spend pouring over aerodynamics textbooks and lecture notes, only to realise these won’t help you with the homework as it’s about something completely different. At least by 11:30pm, after 11hours work, it is usually at a stage that is almost finished. I like to do things a bit more in advance, but Stefan isn’t so keen and thus every Wednesday is the same. At around 6pm, when we got completely stuck, we decided to see if the Professor was still in his office. He was, and he seemed happy to talk to us. At 7:30pm, we left his office having gone through a large proportion of the homework in detail. It was a real shame that, given its complexity, we could hardly remember any of it!

Thursday maintained its role of relief day in between the joys of aerodynamics homework and the joys of Heat Transfer homework. By the by, Linear Circuits isn’t at all difficult by comparison, which is the main reason I never mention that. On Friday, we were given our Heat Transfer midterms back, and I’d scored 92, despite my seemingly best efforts to mess it up. I was very happy with that. The average mark for the class was in the 60’s, so I did pretty well.

The class lists for next quarter came out last week, and by Friday I was able to sign up for classes. Except I wasn’t. I needed clearance from the instructors that I was at a sufficient level to take the course, and that proved harder than I expected to obtain, as when I called they were nearly always out or had moved office or something. I managed to collar an instructor of 130C after lunchtime on Friday, and managed to get cleared just before everyone went home for the weekend.

Ah, the weekend. Nothing much happens during the weekends. Until Sunday night, when some other students come over and it is another mad rush to get the Heat Transfer homework finished. This week despite my best attempts at hints, they didn’t leave until 1:15am, which in lieu of the clocks going back on Sunday, felt like gone 2am. I was shattered and feeling considerably ill at ease due to other issues going on. On Saturday I realised that I had given everyone the wrong address for myself. I had a parcel on the way from the UK for my birthday, and some things from the NBA store. All going to #95327, and not #45327! I had just thought the US postal system was slow, but my NBA stuff had wound its way to San Diego, back to Atlanta, back to San Diego and I had until Tuesday to pick it up at the UPS depot. I didn’t know what was going to happen to the UK parcel.

At 8am this morning I was down at postal services, and it seems the UK parcel will be ok. It won’t get re-routed to another state at least. At 9am, I signed on ok to 131B Solid Mechanics, and sorted out the Heat Transfer homework in the TA’s office hours. At 11, I began my trip to the UPS depot, which was a 30 minutes bus ride, and then a 2.5mile walk. I got there to find one of my NBA parcels, the other was somewhere else. I got back, picking the other parcel up on the way, and was happily in time for something to eat before the Linear Circuits discussion session at 3pm. By 3:45, I was happily ensconced in the International Centre lounge talking to students intending to study in the UK next year. As with most meetings in the US, there was pizza. A lot of pizza! I talked to few students, and told them how wonderful the Edinburgh, London, and the UK in general, is. I was one of the last to leave, and for my efforts, I was given two whole pizzas to bring back. Not bad. Things are starting to look up, after a very productive day!

Life in America is tough, and very busy indeed! In the rare times where you don’t have any pressing work to do, make the most of it. That’s what I’m going to be doing tonight!

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