Friday, September 28, 2007

First years and third years

I was meant to post this yesterday, but unfortunately could only muster one post. Yesterday I bumped into a first year and a third year. The first year I had tried to 'scare' as I waited for someone, and the third year went to the same secondary school as me. Thankfully my 'boo' hadn't actually scared anyone, so I had tried it again yesterday. No surprises to it not working again, but it gave me a chance to talk to the first year in question.

The feelings expressed about how the first week was going, reminded me of my own struggles. I just encouraged the student to keep at it, and hopefully things will start falling into place. I reassured the student that most people will be feeling the same way, and so had I, but supervisions etc are a great help.

The student didn't look too reassured - a great burden seemed to be carried around. I was reminded of my own first year during this instance, and how life had been a struggle. The other day I had even told my PT, that I had seriously considered changing my course during the struggle, but had seen sense after some positive encouragement countered the negative. Yes, I don't think that people\{mathematicians} were 'sympathetic' to my struggles. I didn't want their sympathy, but I didn't want to constantly hear that I had chosen the wrong degree and that 'it served me right'. I also didn't want to hear people telling me that it is not too late to transfer! What made it worse sometimes was when Noddy or certain other people said these comments to me.

I got lucky though, or should I say that DC entered the picture. Why are these feelings coming back to me in a jolt? I don't know to be honest, but they were dark days indeed. I was honestly not understanding the course material - especially numbers, sets and functions. It was a completely different module and proofs had been an alien concept to me. This had all happened in the first five or six weeks.

The concept of 'giving advice' is what is possibly causing this reflection. Is it right to give advice, or is it better to share experiences? What advice would I give to the first years? I honestly can't say, since it is unlikely that there is another nutter out there like me! I would just say that if people are being negative about you doing maths, try to ignore them and remain positive. Or if it is possible, find sources of positivity, which you can always rely on when the negativity returns. Due to the initial negativity, I still don't understand most of the set theory we did in the first six weeks. However, one of my aims in life is to be able to understand the Pigeon-Hole principle properly! (It does have a cool name...)

It has been a week and I have seen a few first years carrying this weary look, like they didn't know what they let themselves in for (but thankfully only a few). I encourage them to come to PASS, and not to worry. I think encouragement is required, but we have to be careful with it. I used to know a few second year student in my first year, and only one seriously encouraged me in a positive way. The others echoed, 'chill out in your first year'. You must create a balance for yourself, and only you know what works for you.

The third year I met on Wednesday was the same second year who told me 'chill out'. I understand where this student is coming from, but I was told 'don't do Algebraic Structures II, because it is really hard, but some stats module in my second semester, due to it being easier'. This student didn't do metric spaces so I think the third year choices are quite limited! I will not mention this student again, because yesterday I bumped into the 'encouraging' second year (now third year) student mentioned above. I really like this student. Why? Because this was something that was said, 'Real and Complex analysis are fun, and so is Algebraic Structures.' The word FUN was used. FUN.

I actually consulted this student after I had chosen my second semester choices, and the feedback I was given was very reassuring. Why am I talking about third years? It's weird how I have only started my second year, and I am looking at my third! Another weird thing is how we all progress through this cycle. In out first year we are sort of timid and worried. Or is overwhelmed the right word? During my second year, I am currently feeling more at ease with myself. Then in the third, I will once again become worried and overwhelmed by things. BTW I have some good news for myself! I can take the fourth year module Galois Theory in my third year.

Something 'funny' happened yesterday, in relation to me being at ease with my maths. In our Partial Differential Equations (PDE) lecture we were given a sheet of PDE's and told to find the equations in our spare time. Later, as I attempted to painfully organise myself, the Tweenies were in conversation. Bella saw me putting away the PDE sheet and remarked, 'Who would be that sad to find the equations in their spare time?' I coughed pointedly. The message had been communicated!! I guess one reason I feel at ease is due to the fact that I am not hiding 'my maths'. We had a discussion about Alan Turing after my sadness had been exposed, since the building was named after him.

My current question has been: who is your favourite mathematician from the past. I don't mean who you think has made a massive impact on mathematics, but to put it in baby language: who did you find cool? I wrote past here, because when I asked someone I was made to clarify this and it is needed I think. If we were talking about present mathematicians, it has got to be the lecturers that I always mention! [DC and PS...].

Anyway, that is enough down memory lane. It is just that I want my years at university to represent a cycle: (1,2,3). Today on two occasions I talked about four years or more, of maths studying. The first time it was with the tweenies. Milo is lucky that he will be doing four years of maths. I just kept quite during this discussion, and mulled over things in my head. Later, I spoke to someone else about four years or more and I was positively encouraged to consider further studies in maths. I was slightly embarrassed at this suggestion, namely because although I want to do such a thing, I didn't think myself competent of doing so. I have not yet conquered the art of teaching oneself. It does sound like an extremely cool thing though: 'studying maths further'. I must confess to sometimes, in my sad little world, thinking about what I would actually research. (I apologise for the overuse of the word cool - shift f7 isn't working!)

However, with this discussion I was overcome with a brief moment of sadness. How do I explain my circumstances? How do I explain that there is something else I want to achieve, but I don't know what to prioritise? About why what I do isn't as simple as I would like it to be. One reason why I want that cycle to exist is because I don't ever want to leave studying and university. I really love it. Lectures, the struggles, and everything is just great. The one thing that I must do this year, is somehow suppress my desire to study maths beyond my degree. Well straight after I guess. I can always do it some time in the future I hope. Last year, the prospect of not doing further studies was really taxing for me, and that is the reason why I want to make them thoughts disjoint from myself. Is that a fair thing?

Yes, I am currently feeling sad at the moment. No surprises there. Nuno just saw two of my maths books and said, 'You can teach me this can't you?' I just laughed and said I will after she has finished learning fractions and everything else. I do want to be a teacher, but am I writing that just to convince myself? I do, but not now I suppose. See, this topic is very problematic for me. I would never have imagined myself capable of further studying of mathematics, but am I reminded of my friend in school who is doing medicine. I used to say to my friend that I will be a doctor one day too... but not in the same way.

Meh, that is enough depressing things for one post! The feeling of still having time reassures me, and hence I should not worry too much about the future yet. Would you believe it - it's a Friday as well! (Yes, I am finishing this post this morning). I wonder how the day is going to progress.

I wrote the above paragraph before coming into university, and now I'm finishing this whilst at university!

I did a very stupid or impulsive thing this morning, before my lectures started. I couldn't help myself. I just saw, though a little and then did! I don't know why I did what I did. I just didn't think. Meh, it's not surprises that I am an ickle freak.

This Friday has been a long day: I will be posting the first episode of 'Oscillating Fridays', when I get home. The day has yet to end you see, but I am upset that not all my lectures seem like stories. More later I hope. To complex analysis and beyond...

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