【明報專訊】I have come to slowly realise that university is a whole new ball game compared to high school. I had always thought that it would just be an academically more rigorous and socially more liberal version of high school; boy was I wrong! Almost three weeks into my first semester, I have already missed two online quizzes, confused by all the different websites used to submit homework and lost in dozens of notifications a day. There is no excuse, no mercy. If you miss a deadline by even a minute, that's it. No one will chase you around for late homework anymore, and professors couldn't care less if you miss a lecture. Support and tutoring are there if you need it, but the whole learning process still feels very independent. You attend a lecture, the professor shows you an example or two, then you are expected to finish problem sets and quizzes, filling in any gaps with the textbook or other resources.
I was an averagely organised student at high school. Most of the time I met my deadlines, but whenever I couldn't, I knew I could count on my teachers' kindness to let it slide or give me an extension. The new reality of university has compelled me to get very organised very quickly. I now complete tasks at least a day in advance wherever possible and spend most of my waking hours at least partly working.
The material I encounter in classes also makes me feel quite out of my depth. Economics, for example, used to be rather straightforward. Memorise all the key concepts and definitions, learn how to write an essay and you are guaranteed a decent grade. Here, we are working on constrained optimisation using partial derivatives and the Lagrange multiplier. Doesn't sound like English? I agree. In another way, though, I relish being stretched mentally, trying to make sense of the problem with friends, and just not being idle like I was in the last six months because of COVID.
Alice is a freshman at Cornell University intending to major in Economics and Computer Science, having previously studied in the UK for six years. A lover of languages, she studies French, Italian, Japanese and picks up bits of other languages when she can.