Saturday, August 15, 2015

One Semester Left 'Til the Finish Line...

Freedom at last! I've finally finished the semester (including all tests and make up tests) and have enough time to do... whatever it is that I do. Actually I have no idea what to do with myself. I technically have a job but it's a very part time job and very unsteady work. This past semester was an extremely full semester, with little time to do things that required leaving the library (sometimes I can't remember what the outside world is like, though it must be a wonderful place). So now that I have nothing to do... well... I have nothing to do.
I had 6 courses this past semester, 4 of them with regular homework to hand in, one of them a chemistry lab with all the requisite lab reports, and my seminarion- the final project and culmination of one's 3 year degree. Not in my case obviously, seeing as I still have another semester left and have technically done 3 and a half years so far. Regardless, I worked really hard those two weeks before it was due (the last Tuesday of the semester), and presented it in front of real live people even though public speaking is my biggest fear. That's actually the only normal phobia I have. Snakes are cool, flying's fine (I have no idea what Samuel L. Jackson's issue was with all those snakes on that plane), I work with mice and regularly liberate insects from our human domains, I roam the streets freely with no fear of being mugged, but show me a puppet or a mime and my fight-or-flight instinct will immediately be triggered. Usually fleeing is the better option since I don't think anyone's ever won a fight with a puppet.
I honestly tried to work on my project before the last minute crept up, but between all the homework and lab reports, I was left with the option of sleeping or reading scientific publications. Since both of those options would have lead very quickly to sleeping anyway, I did not bother with the pretense of advancing my knowledge of non-coding RNAs. Unlike my mother, who regularly falls asleep with newspapers on her face Friday night because she's going to “read the news,” even though we all know that means reading one headline before slipping into a deep slumber. If the cat's lucky, the newspaper will land on her and not on him. He does not appreciate being covered in newspapers as he does not read nor does he concern himself with our trivial human affairs.
My chemistry lab was basically a black hole of time. An entire week went in and I never saw that week again. It wasn't just lab reports either. We had to prepare an entire pre-lab report, then we had a quiz at the beginning of every lab, and then a “colloquium” after the quiz (I kid you not, that's the exact word they used) where they asked us more questions and talked a lot and made sure we knew what we were supposed to be doing with all those chemicals they were reluctantly handing us (a successful Thursday was one in which I did not blow up the chem lab. An awesome Thursday would have been one in which someone else blew up the chem lab, but unfortunately this did not occur at any point during the semester, to my disappointment). We only started the actual lab an hour or so later, by which time I was just about ready to drink acid (no, not that kind of acid) to make the talking stop. After the lab, we had a week to do the lab report and prepare the next pre-lab report. The worst part of the lab was realizing that 2 of the lab teachers were students I'd started my degree with 4 years ago, who had started masters degrees, and were now grading my lab reports. Awwwwwkwaaaard. One of the guys remembered me and asked, “weren't we in class together?” I was like, “hey look, something green is bubbling onto the floor over there!”
Thankfully the lab was over two weeks before the end of the semester, so I was able to work on my seminarion then. Otherwise I'd have had to blow up the chemistry lab to gain some time. I didn't mind the research and the subject was interesting (to me anyway- those who made the mistake of asking what my project was about very quickly regretted it). It was presenting in front of the entire class, the supervisor of the class, and my project supervisor that was the problem. 90% of the other presenters in the class memorized their entire lecture while simultaneously giving a power point presentation. I do not have the mental capacity to a) remember b) think using my brain, while standing in front of more than a few people. My memory is notoriously short, and I've been known to start laughing maniacally and uncontrollably in the middle of a presentation. I decided instead, to write down my presentation and just read it out loud. I even signaled to myself when to move on to the next slide because my brain can't even handle that much. I tried to comfort myself with the knowledge that no one would be listening or paying attention anyway since my presentation was in English and happened to be the second to last presentation of the semester. The only one listening would be my supervisor and I was hoping he'd feel guilty enough for not being in the country most of the semester to give me extra points for that.
The presentation was supposed to be 25 to 30 minutes with 5 minutes or so for questions afterwards. I wanted to practice my presentation before I had to do it in front of everyone, so I volunteered my parents to be my captive audience (yes, I actually locked them in a room with barred windows so they couldn't make a break for it). The cat joined of her own free will and a friend of my mother happened to be staying over so she got volunteered as well. This was a mistake. Actually, the mistake was in not duct taping everyone's mouth shut before I started talking. My purpose in going through a practice run was to time the presentation and to read over the material at least once while explaining the graphs and tables on my PowerPoint slide. The point was NOT in having them critique the material because I knew they had no idea what the hell I was talking about anyway. I knew this because the first question asked was, “What is DNA exactly?” All I wanted was for them to sit there and pretend to listen. They could've taken a nap for all I care as long as their bodies were still in a vertical position on the couch so that I could pretend that I had a real audience.
I asked them to hold their questions until the end since I didn't really care if they understood or not but my mother and her friend proceeded to ignore my request and bombard me with questions anyway like, “wait, what does that stuff do again?” and “Are you sure people are going to understand what you're talking about?” while my father yelled at them to let me speak. My mother's friend is a professor, and I'm sure she's a wonderful professor, but they all get an F as students. At one point my mother was in the bathroom, my dad was petting the cat, and my mom's friend was off to the side doing lunges. It took me an hour and a half to finish the presentation and I was left with no real idea how long it would take to present in front of a group of students who'd be either indiscreetly playing Candy Crush on their phones or slumped over their desks, drooling.

In the end it took 45 minutes (15 minutes over schedule). I'm pretty sure 3 people left to seek medical treatment afterwards because they never returned. I sure hope they're ok. I'd hate to be the presenter that lectured 3 students into irreversible comas.

1 comment:

  1. Natania, I'm enjoying your blog. I laughed at the appropriate places, (at least I think they were the appropriate places) did not fall asleep or drool, and didn't even have to excuse myself to take a break or a medical moment. You write very well. I related quite well to your description of having a hard time speaking before a group without using notes. I think this gets better with experience. May your next and last semester go well.