Backed Into a Corner

So ever since i looked up at the stars and thought how amazing it all was--how unfathomable the universe is, how small we are, how powerful, fascinating, and super intriguing the innerworkings of space and the universe are, i decided i wanted to study astronomy. so that lead to astrophysics inevitably, and now i just finished my freshman year at college, astrophysics major, chasing astronaut dreams. I was never good at math in high school, but i enjoyed science alot and loved anything astronomy. So i got to college, and got better at math, but am hitting a wall when it comes to physics, its a constant struggle and im wearing thin--they overwhelm physics majors purposely--i just don't know if i am smart enough for this. I have been taking classes all year long--winter session and summer session ontop of the regular fall and spring semesters in order to undo my horrible years of math in highschool which has put me behind in my major. Its so difficult at times, MOST of the time actually--not with my math class, but my physics classes--, and its tough when to figure out when its time to give it up, if I should, what would I do instead, its a mess. Astrophysics wasnt what I thought it would be--although i havent fully gotten into yet, the basics are killing me, and i've only been able to take one actual astro class, the rest are boring, straight physics classes which i know i need to master but are not the reason for which i fell in love with astrophysics. I feel unsuited for this. I am currently taking E&M aka physics 2 and calc 2 in a six week period. I am half way through but am desperately struggling in physics (im loving calc tho!). Yet, i know, whether i pass this class or not, when i go back to campus for fall semester, i will enjoy doing other things i.e. my ROTC stuff, my Russian homework, and now possibly my calc 3 homework, over my physics hw--and i'll have two physics classes this fall: thermo and modern physics. I want to become an astronaut, but all my dreams are going to fall apart if my main foundation on which i built them (astrophysics) is in itself an impossible foundation to build. I'm struggling and need help and guidance. anyone out there whose been through this and has some advice, email me please bhaggs@udel.edu

bhaggs11 bhaggs11
18-21
2 Responses Jul 31, 2009

I have a few bits of advice. <br />
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1.) Think of the math portion of your physics course like your Russian course work. It's all about integration of both sides of your brain. Math is a language that expresses beauty just as much if not more than any other language. A lot of people don't understand the language very well and so it is largely misunderstood or ignored by the mass audience, even dismissed as something that is boring. Every "higher level" of math you learn is just like boosting your vocabulary for ex<x>pression with this language. As far as concepts in your physics classes go I'd suggest just memorizing what they are saying enough to regurgitate it on a test. Physics in general, but specifically quantum and astrophysics, are fields that need to continue evolving their theories. We make advances in this area as a species when someone is brave enough to challenge the status and say "hey, that isn't right". Don't restrict yourself to the concepts they are currently teaching, I disagree with some of them myself and I would encourage you to decide and figure out what makes the most sense to you. <br />
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2.) Be a recognizable student. There were times when I wanted to sink into the sea of students in the auditorium and just do the work and get out. This wasn't the best way to get through classes, and was actually counterproductive for my own learning. College professors are in general way more awesome than the majority of teachers you may have encountered in previous levels of education. I would advise you to establish a working relationship with your professors so that they not only recognize your face, but also know your name and how you specifically are doing in the class. Professors are often happy to make time to help students that are genuinely interested in the topic and express an interest to learn from them. Yes, professors can be biased in grading. I'm not talking about giving an A to someone who obviously deserved a F for their own personal reasons. I'm saying that grading exams, homework, and labs requires a certain amount of judgment when there isn't a concrete answer. In physics many professors will look at how you came to your conclusion and give partial credit. If they have a connection to make between you and the name on the paper they are likely to be more lenient when they dock points for incorrect answers. This builds up over a class and can mean the difference in a final grade that is passing or failing. <br />
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3.) Take care of yourself. Your whole self. Relax, read, meditate. Feed your body good food, and don't put too much junk in it. The term "freshman 15" didn't appear for no reason. Lots of people starting college gain weight under the new stress. Balance your lifestyle. Schedule study time and stick to it. You will have more time to be social without worry this way. <br />
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Don't give up! Sometimes we have to push through crummy classes, crummy teachers, crummy learning systems, and outdated information to gain any credibility so we can "boldly go" wherever we want to go.

dude...I think we're the same person, hahah! XD<br />
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I also just finished my freshman year as an Astrophysics major, and I wasn't the greatest at math in high school which put me behind in my major, but I got a lot better last year. I've taken one entry-level astrophysics/cosmology class which was a lot of fun, but I haven't actually taken any physics classes, I'm going to be starting my first (college) physics class in about a month, when fall quarter starts up again. <br />
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I wish you luck with your classes, it sounds like you're a little ahead of me in the physics classes, so I can't say I have any advice, but what always works for me is just to keep your head up and work hard, that's what got me through calculus, I had a D after the midterm, but by the time my final grade came in, I had an A-