It’s the last week of classes here at Princeton (we still have Reading Period and Finals), so expectedly, every class is more or less dumping the remaining workload right on top of each other, making for a rather hellish week. Between the problem sets, paper, and coding assignments, I’m really tired right now. In fact, I was planning to start on another problem set at the moment, but decided to take a small break.
Right around now, it’s finally starting to hit me that I’m approaching the end of my first year in college. In the fleeting moments I have to think aimlessly, my thoughts wander back to the very beginning of this year. The differences in the way I saw Princeton at the beginning of the year and now have drastically changed. It’s exceeded every expectation I had in every way. Classes were both more challenging than expected, yet far more interesting than I thought. Labs weren’t as miserable as I thought they would be (and now, after last night, I am done with labs, probably forever!). Problem sets were harder than I expected in general, but review sessions were much, much more helpful than I anticipated. I expected professors to be very good at what they do; I’ve gotten some absolutely excellent ones who’ve surpassed those expectations. I expected to see smart people all around; yes, they’re here. All around. Somewhere along this year, I finally discovered my passion in computer science and the kid who was unsure of his listed major in September is now certain in his path for the future. Back in high school, I’d always end a year thinking about how little I actually learned in most of my classes. But here it is nothing like that. In almost all of my classes, the vast majority of the material was either new or re-introduced at a much deeper and more rigorous level and I really, really learned an incredible amount. I’ve met some awesome people along the way, many of whom have helped shaped my thinking, provided me with the motivation to study harder, or just generally left me with a sense of amazement at their abilities. There are lots of smart people here, and it can only help to be amongst them.
I’ve thought about the difficulties I encountered in the course of the year. First semester was really rough. Between stress due to MAT 215 and the general sense of impending doom due to midterms/finals, I found it really hard. But now, having forgone every intuition and remained in the class and passed, it serves as a constant reminder that just because something looks impossible, this alone is insufficient to conclude that it is indeed so. The incredible property of ourselves is thus: we can often rise above the boundaries that we judge our abilities to stay within. And with lots of hard work, a bit of motivation, and just the slightest actual bit of smarts, those boundaries can be exceeded. My experiences in MAT 215 have left me with a good sense of what higher math classes will be like and with the confidence that impossible is really nothing. If there’s one thing I’d have to summarize as the characteristic thing of this year, it’s precisely that. When we strip away what we think we can accomplish, we can actually accomplish something. I’m so glad I’m here.