Finding myself making every possible mistake: college thus far

After a year in college, I’ve been a model of success. I developed an antagonistic relationship with my roommate after I repeatedly locked her out (not on purpose, but try telling her that), got a B in a one-credit-hour class, and found myself stuck in a major in which I saw no practical value. But these experiences have not been without value. So let me explain.

Being able to talk to your roommate is useful. Very useful. If you observed the way my roommate and I interacted last year, you would have thought that we were each spies who suspected the other of trying to torture the location of nuclear codes out in the other’s sleep. But there wasn’t any antipathy that lead to our silence. At least, none that I knew about.

At the beginning of the year, I would attempt to engage her in conversation, draw out details about her classes, family, major, anything that might enable us to become friends. But she answered my questions with little more than a syllable, and soon I gave up.

After the first month or so passed, I grew so used to not talking with her that I could not imagine it any other way. But I soon regretted my mistake.

It helps to have some goodwill when you ask her to turn down the eighth Tyra rerun she’s watched that night so you can get some rest before an exam. Granted, I’m sure I had annoying habits as well, and locking her out on several occasions may have been one of them. It’s easy to forget that not everyone is a paranoid ex-boarding school student who brings keys with them to the shower.

When I told a friend (another habit to avoid: regaling your friends with every lurid detail of your roommate experience so that they back away from her like a rabid animal if they ever happen to meet) that the longest conversation Tracy and I had all second semester was when she asked me for change for a $5, my friend aptly pointed out, “Didn’t you ask her how her winter break was?” So, okay, the change conversation was the second longest.

In short, honesty and communication won’t solve all of your roommate problems, but they will make dealing with them easier.

Going to class is another important, if under-rated, part of college. In other words, don’t skip. Or at least, don’t skip on the last day of class. If your average is already borderline, and you have an in-class assessment worth 10 percent of your grade.

Violating that sacred rule is what earned me a B in the paragon of intellectual stimulation known as LAS 101.

After a diligent semester of forgetting to turn “assignments” in to Compass by 11 p.m. and coming to class without a USA Today article on the financial crisis, I found myself sitting in the library on the Wednesday before finals at 3 p.m. relishing the fact that I had nothing to do.

Around 5 p.m., it occurred to me that it had been a while since I had such an unobstructed afternoon. And then it occurred to me: I was supposed to be getting out of class now. I had just completely unintentionally skipped class on the last day.

Thanks to my less than studious habits all semester, which put me at a solid A-, missing the attendance points and points for the assignment we were supposed to turn in would put me at a B. In LAS 101.

Everyone tells you to expect Bs in college. In Theoretical and Applied Mechanics. Maybe even Economics. But not a class in which the single most challenging assignment was highlighting answers to “who, what, when, where, and why” in an AP article. Getting a B is tantamount to failing a multiple choice quiz on your mother’s maiden name.

To save yourself this embarrassment, at least plan your skips around days you’re not having quizzes. That may be the best preparation for college yet.

Fortunately, LAS 101 wasn’t representative of my academic experience that first year.

Like many students with law school aspirations, I carefully considered my interests and future career and settled on math as a major. Okay, no. I’m aware that my choice of study put me in the minority, but I was happy that way.

I wanted a field that was challenging, but still interesting, and who wouldn’t want to constantly reproduce that special zing that comes from taking a derivative correctly?

But in college I found that advanced mathematics couldn’t be more different from calculus. My beloved TI-89 sat untouched in my desk for most of the year because homework didn’t require a single computation, just proof after proof after tedious proof.

By second semester, I was drowning in still more proofs and was growing seriously dissatisfied. I could see no practical value whatsoever in what I was studying. “Your honor, row reductions shows that this linear system representing the evidence has no solutions, exonerating my client!”

But the idea of switching majors also left me paralyzed with fear. What would my parents think? What if I made the wrong choice again? Would I be able to graduate on time? What would my parents think? Note: expect to spend a lot of time in college stressing about parental expectations.

And not for no good reason, either. If I were investing twenty thousand a year in something, I would at least expect a quarterly progress report that wasn’t “continued uncertainty.”

But I finally got up the guts to make a visit to 112 Engineering Hall, and several weeks ago, officially switched my major to civil engineering, another field that will have absolutely no benefit in my future career as a lawyer, but will be interesting and pragmatic in the meantime.

Amy Allen is a sophomore in Engineering..