balancing chaos

The way I’ve been describing my life this semester: chaos. Absolute chaos.

I just realized last week that I’m taking 42 credit points, which is the equivalent of a 21-credit-hour semester at a US university.  A normal courseload is 15 credit hours, with 18 credit hours being difficult but doable.  At Virginia Tech, you actually have to apply for special permission to take more than 19 credit hours in one semester.  I’ve never had to go above 18 credit hours before.

I had been avoiding counting up how many credit hours I was taking for a while because I was scared of the result.  I knew I had a lot of classes (including the exam I’m going to have to entirely retake), but I was afraid to put a number to it.  But I finally did, and now this semester seems more impossible than before.

I only need to pass my thesis project and one other class in order to get the credits I need to graduate from Virginia Tech.  Unfortunately, the class I need to pass is on fluid systems and turbomachines (involves fluid dynamaics and thermodynamics calculations), which I’m not terribly interested in.  The exam for that class has the oddest format I’ve ever heard of; we are supposed to prepare a 5-minute presentation of a scenario involving some fluid system/turbomachine system and then derive various key values for the professor, and then he starts throwing more questions at us about the scenario we picked, asking us to calculate different things related to our scenario, do dimensional analysis, etc.  Only we aren’t allowed to bring any notes to help us.  We have to have our scenario and the related equations memorized.

Yeah, I’m scared about that one.  This professor isn’t known for being a generous grader, either.  If I fail that class, I will need to go back to VT for an additional semester.  I’m doing everything I can think of to prevent that from happening.

The other classes are at least slightly less concerning, since I only need them to graduate from TUD.  Getting a BS degree from TUD would definitely be nice, but my top priority is graduating from the school I originally enrolled at–VT, not TUD.

And even then, I’m working on my thesis project and trying to write about it while preparing for these exams.  I want to do a good job on my thesis, of course.  The team I’m working with is awesome, the project is fun, I’m learning a lot, and if I work hard on it, I’ll have a nice long technical report and plenty of CAD models I can show future potential grad school advising professors and potential employers.  But since it takes more effort to pass my classes here than it takes to get a good grade in a class at Virginia Tech (due to the language barrier and different teaching/exam styles, not because Virginia Tech is bad, because VT is actually awesome), I’m not sure how to balance everything.

Oh, and on top of everything else, I’m going with the team I’m working with for my thesis to the RoboCup competition in Mexico City for a week.  It’s a great opportunity, but will I be able to recover from the week of programming all day and little sleep at night (and the jetlag afterwards) in time for exams?  There’s little chance of me getting anything related to my classes done that week, which scares me.

I know I haven’t been posting much, and my posts lately have been kind of depressing.  I look forward to posting about the language learning process, cultural experiences, and more pictures when I get home.  But right now, I’m in triage mode, and I’m scared.

I seriously don’t know if I can do this–this is the hardest semester I’ve ever experienced, and it’s not to the crazy part yet.  I’m going to try my best, but if it doesn’t work out and I end up turning into a raving lunatic, would somebody volunteer to come put me on the plane home in a straitjacket?  I may need it.  And prayer would be appreciated, as always.

On the bright side, I do have a ticket home in late August.  The chaos has an official end date.  I just hope that I can be certain that I have at least one graduation in the bag by then.