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Monday, 19 May 2014

Stepping into adulthood: the end of freshman year


Forgive me the pretentious post title, but that is exactly how it feels - as if by living somewhat independently for the past year, I have started to grow up. I feel like a vastly different person from the high school graduate a year ago - although surely one doesn't change so much in the space of one year?

My outlook has tempered a little since my breathlessly excited post last August, but I still love college. I feel as if I'm slowly coming into my own, and gaining confidence in my abilities. I feel free and happy in college. Classes, homework and tests feel far less like millstones around my neck. I've at least partially achieved what I never could in IB - the balanced perspective that tells me that a failed exam or an unfinished project would hardly be the end of the world. I perform far better without the immense pressure of the critical voice in my head asking stupid what-if questions. I've decided I take life far too seriously - and ironically, I've found that when I keep that in mind, I become closer to the person I want to be than when I let it eat at me that I'm some distance from who I want to be. One of my teachers gave me this quote when I was leaving school: You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. (AA Milne, Winnie the Pooh - and thank you, Deepa ma'am!) I'm starting to believe it.

Spring semester was a lot busier for me than fall semester. But I didn't mind, because most of my classes have been very interesting, and I've had some really good professors this year. My 'Intro to writing poetry and prose fiction' class was a blast. I've really enjoyed it, even if I have realized that writing poetry is not for me. Professor McCaffrey is a sweetheart, and his generous reception made it far easier to let go of my writing inhibitions, of which I have plenty. World Civ class reminded me how much I used to love history before I dropped it in IGCSE and IB. I might have been a little happier in IB if I'd taken history instead of business, but it's a moot point now. Reading primary and secondary documents from different periods of history and researching the Renaissance for my project have been fascinating.

Calculus has been a bit of mixed bag. The professor (Robert Busch) had quite the personality - not only is he a really good teacher, but he is also extremely engaging, and very, very funny. He is probably the funniest teacher I've ever had. Some of this stems from the fact that he isn't hesitant about doing outrageous things - like smearing chalk powder on his forehead and cheeks and shouting at the board (a war cry, see, before tackling calc).
But I did terribly on one exam when I relaxed a bit too much, and I still haven't gotten over it. Also, the realization that I will never quite be a math genius even if I do like math, pinches a little.

Geography of Economic Systems was super easy to get through - but still quite interesting. The professor, Deborah Naybor has an amazing story (check out http://www.capitalistchicks.com/?q=node/347 and http://www.averagegirlmagazine.com/members/Archive/0504Inspiration01.pdf). She is also extremely sweet, and I seriously considered going to Uganda with her this summer. It didn't work out, unfortunately, but I'm hoping I can go next year.

So I've had a wonderful but busy semester and I'm totally ready for summer. Being home is strange, though. When I came home for winter break, it felt as if the four preceding months had been a trip and I was home for good. Now, being home feels temporary. I suppose it's a sign that I've acclimated to living on my own and university, but I'm struggling with it a little. The more I get used to living in the US, the more I feel irrationally frightened that I'm becoming somehow less Indian. This has always been a struggle for me. I feel strongly rooted yet alienated because of how Western my outlook is. Even before I went to the US it was like this - after all, my consumption of books, movies, everything - is predominated by the West. Some days I would feel suddenly ashamed of how I think and express myself in English - it would feel wrong, somehow, that the language I'm most comfortable with is English and not Telugu. There is this niggling fear in the back of my head that the longer I stay and study in the US, the more Americanized I will become. Don't get me wrong - there are a lot of wonderful things about Western thought and culture - but I cherish my cultural heritage. I've resolved to start reading far more Indian authors this summer - and not just those who write in English (I mean translated regional literature). I want desperately to learn Sanskrit, and hopefully I'll find an online course that will allow me to do so. After watching the classic Missamma last winter, I want to watch a lot more black-and-white Telugu cinema. I also want to volunteer, and find an internship. I might never have managed to do all I planned to do in the summer before, but I'm always optimistic.

Most of all, it's scrumdiddlyumptious and gloriumptious to be home.