June has finally arrived, and I’ve got to say, I’ve been dreading it.
And all because of these two words: Summer semester.
I put it off for as long as I could, but there was simply no escaping it. Regardless of how I arranged my schedule over the past three years, a summer semester was inevitable. And now it’s here and I’ve got to deal with it.
I recall my first time as a college student taking summer classes. It was way the hell back in 1980, after the dinosaurs, but before the internet. I was a freshman, and something of an over-achiever. I took two back-to-back five-week summer sessions, with two classes each session.
That was a great summer. I knocked out twelve hours of basic required courses and still had enough time to get to work each day and enough energy to go out with my friends several nights a week. Everything moved at a rapid clip, but I was 19 years old and only working part-time, driving a delivery van for my brother Marty’s lighting supply business.
The world was not demanding too much of me back then. School was no big challenge. Texas History, Texas Government, and Basic Accounting I and II. Three easy A’s, and a B, because the professor for Accounting II had one of those monotone, Ben Stein-like voices that made it really hard to focus.
I miss those days. I had no idea how good I had it.
Things are very different in graduate school. Expectations are much, much higher. You’ve got to know more, to think more, and to write more. If you’ve reached the graduate level, there are no more basics to skate through. There is no such thing as an “easy A”. You work your ass off for every single one. Occasionally, you end up with a B. And that’s as low as you can go. There are no C’s in graduate school. Anything below a B requires that you take the class over.
In my latest incarnation as a college student, I’ve taken two classes each term. I contemplated taking more than that, but the idea of having both a full-time job and a full-time course load seemed overwhelming. I probably would have survived, but it would have been a miserable grind. Just being a part-time student has been stressful enough. Full-time students normally complete a master’s degree in two years. I’ll complete mine in three and a half. And I can live with that. Slow and steady wins the race, or something like that.
Up until now, however, I’ve had the luxury of the summers off, giving me more than three months to recharge my mental batteries and NOT be a student. But I’ve known this was coming. Certain courses which are part of my core curriculum are only offered during the summer semester. And now that I’m in the home stretch, I’ve got to bite the bullet. So long, vacay! Buh bye, summer!
And it sucks. But it was inevitable. So whaddaya gonna do? Time to put on my big-girl panties and deal with it. Nobody likes a whiner, especially me.
A typical college semester is about fifteen weeks long. Summers are shorter, obviously, so the semester is compressed into ten weeks. This means that a full course has to be presented in roughly two-thirds of the standard time. In order to keep up, I have to stay focused and alert and totally on top of everything. And I’m taking two courses. So, you know, double all that focus and alertness. There will undoubtedly be twice as much coffee and Foo music in my future to achieve this.
One benefit to being a grad student is early registration. For me, this meant that I signed up for both this semester and my fall classes in early April. I was so on the ball that I had both of my textbooks ordered and delivered by early May. There was nothing left to do but pay my tuition bill. It was not a pleasant prospect, but it didn’t have to be done until May 30th, so of course I put it off until the last minute.
Which, it turned out, was about 240 minutes too late. When I made a note in my calendar to pay the bill May 30th, I completely missed the part about the 5:00 pm deadline. So when I logged into the system that night, to pay for the classes that I had registered for two months prior, I was pretty upset to see I had been dropped from the rolls. I could late-register the following Monday morning, but there was nothing to be done at that point. So mostly, I just sulked.
Luckily, I had no problem getting into my classes. By noon on Monday, I was back on the rolls and in the bursar’s good graces once again. Crisis averted.
Now comes the hard part.
I’ve spent the last few days getting familiar with the course concepts and sifting through syllabi and schedules. I will be spending a great deal of time reading this weekend, and most likely every weekend from now through the end of July. There will be lots of writing. Numerous short assignments, but only one major paper, thankfully.
And now that I’ve had a chance to look things over and get my bearings, I’m breathing a little easier. There will be a lot of moving parts to this semester, and the summer in general – I’m still working full-time and my husband is still running for Congress – but I think it’s all going to be okay. Perhaps all that dread was for nothing. Hell, at this point, I’m already one-tenth of the way through. The time will no doubt fly.
One of my classes requires that I maintain a blog addressing the health-related subject of my choice. A blog, you say? Hot damn! They’ve given me a task that I already know how to do. And I can finally direct my energy at the topic which has captured my attention and fueled my passion – food insecurity and finding solutions to alleviate it.
By early August, I’ll be done, with only a semester left between me and that degree. By early August, I’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel. And I’m confident that it won’t be a train.
May’s baked goods contest winner is Nancy, who is currently residing in France! I’ve attempted the overseas shipping of baked goods before, but found it prohibitively expensive, and when the goods finally arrived, they’d gone a bit stale. Everything that comes out of my kitchen is delightfully preservative-free, you know! At any rate, Nancy has asked me to redirect her prize – a pan of pecan pie bars – to her mom, Kathryn, who lives right down the road in Austin. I could drive them down to her this weekend, if I didn’t have so much reading to do. Thankfully, the U.S. Postal Service has my back. Thanks for reading along, Nancy! Let me know how your mom likes her treats!