academic success?

I am getting a little nervous about my academics here.  True, the semester hasn’t even started (in Germany, the academic year runs from October to September, so I’m technically taking the equivalent of a summer class).  But I’ve heard from other students here in my major that the classes I will be taking when the semester actually starts are hard.  Very hard.

As a study-abroad student, for the class credits I earn here to transfer back to Virginia Tech, I only need to pass my classes.  I definitely intend to do better, of course–I don’t want to settle for a low grade and for not learning much–but I am relieved to know that if the language on the final exam confuses me and I only barely pass the exam despite knowing the material, I get the class credit.  All my grades will be pass/fail to Virginia Tech, and with the language barrier, that may be a good thing.  My German is improving, but there is so much technical vocabulary I don’t know!

But to try to do better than just passing with a minimum grade, I am trying to review some classes I took over the last year that I realize now I did not quite understand.  At the same time, I’m trying to look up technical vocabulary so that when the professor starts talking about putting the equations of motion for a fluid system into state-space form, I can actually follow what he’s saying without needing to scramble for my dictionary.

I’m thankfully making some friends here–even some friends who will be taking the same classes or who have already taken them.  I hope those friends don’t mind helping me both study and translate.  I will definitely need the help.  I heard from a professor one that “no one gets an engineering degree alone,” and that is certainly true.  Mechanical Engineering is a broad discipline, and people who are able to understand mechanical design might have problems comprehending thermodynamics.  I have gotten help from many people at Virginia Tech, and I have helped a few myself.  We’re all in this together.  Now I just need to get reassurance that this camaraderie is international.

There’s a part of me that thinks that my nervousness is partly due to the fact that I have not even signed up for my classes yet, while other people in my class year at VT are 1/3 of the way through the semester.  Another part of me is concerned that the classes here are graded based on a single final exam at the end of the class (that you apparently need to study really hard for).  I hope that I can handle this, but at the moment, I have no standard by which to measure my success or failure.  And if the only exams are at the end, I won’t have a standard for a while.  I need to quit worrying and just do my best to be proactive so I won’t have to worry as much later.

Here’s to academic success!  (hopefully!  If you are a praying person, please pray for me!)

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