As graduation looms closer, and as I try to figure out what exactly is going in my physiology class, I’ve realized that I’ve been in a state of constant nostalgia.
I want to rewind to about three years ago, when I first embarked on my journey at Texas A&M.
Chemistry had always been a formidable opponent for me. Dating back to when I had just started to learn the basics in middle school to when I finally took a chemistry course in high school, I had always feared the chemical elements of nature. Chemistry was an unconquerable obstacle that often made me question my intelligence and sanity. The word “zwitterion” was more than enough to send me into a paralyzed state of anxiety.
As a senior in high school, I chose to be a biomedical science major on a whim. Prior to my decision, I had had no clue about what to do with my life (and oftentimes I still don’t.) However, after persuasion from my parents, I elected to entrench myself in the sciences—those wonderful sciences that our universe could not exist without. Yet, there was one glaring eyesore on my first semester schedule that did not go unnoticed: Chemistry.
I was so afraid, I used the little money I earned from my job as a bagger at HEB to hire a chemistry tutor the summer before the course began. Two times a week I met with my tutor to hammer the basics into my head in the hopes that something would stick during the semester. Two times a week I became increasingly more worried as I realized many of the concepts were flying over my head.
The first day of class in Heldenfels is so ingrained in my memory that I can probably recall it with better accuracy than I can my own social security number. The class was taught in a normal freshman lecture style. With about 200 other students surrounding me, many who probably had the same fears I had, I could not help but wonder who would make the mark and who would not. A little cynical, I know.
So, there stood my professor: tall, lanky, and with every bit of gusto you would not expect an introductory chemistry professor to encompass. He seemed nice enough, and my worries about the class were slightly assuaged when we began discussing molecular and atomic weights, ionization, and the like. My tutor and I had gone over those theories multiple times in the weeks before the semester began. But, then the days marking the start of the first examination started to quickly pass. My anxiety was only heightened when one of my friends, who was also taking the chemistry course, albeit by another professor, told me she had made a 33% on her exam. I wanted to scream. I wanted to run and never have to think about stoichiometry and balancing equations again. However, the run from College Station to Ghana, West Africa is a pretty lengthy trek. Thus, I decided to try my luck and take the exam to the best of my ability. To my surprise, I made a 78% on that first exam. The grade was nowhere near what I wanted, but at least I hadn’t abysmally failed yet.
Before I indulge about the outcome of the course, I must mention that I do not necessarily believe most college courses are taught in an “effective” learning environment. I do not and will never appreciate how cavalier many are about the fact that much of the information that is taught to students one semester is forgotten in the next. Learning should be active, and there is nothing active about staring at a book for hours on end, hoping to remember at least 90% of the material to make the grade. However, my introductory chemistry course taught me the importance of having friends, and more importantly, smart friends. Had it not been for my team of study cohorts, I certainly would have performed worse on the exams than I would have liked. Thus, as finals loomed closer, I stood near the finish mark with a 79% average. With a calculator in hand, I realized that in order to make an A in the course, I would have to make a 100% on the final. Mind you, I had never made anything above an 84% on any of the examinations. I began to lose hope.
The all-nighters my friends and I pulled for that Chemistry 101 final were legendary. We still laugh about them to this day. Groggy and slightly defeated, we all walked into that final as though we were going to war and knew we were on the losing side. Can you imagine my surprise when I found out a few days later I had made a 100%? I had somehow managed to pull a 79% to above an 89.5%. I had done it.
Victory was mine.