It was 6 pm on the second day of my winter break internship at the National Institutes of Health. I was just getting ready to pack up and go home when it happened–my computer beeped and I got the notification to an email that said another grade got uploaded to my SIS account.
My heart dropped. I knew what class this grade was for, Intro Chem 1, because it was the last one left. I had been waiting for what felt like a year for this grade (it was actually only less than a week). I started to feel sick. I had been struggling with Chem this entire semester. I considered dropping the first few weeks in, after I failed the first midterm. I told myself to push through. Then, I considered dropping again, after the initial drop period ended and when dropping a class would mean I would get a ‘W’ for “withdrew” on my transcript. I told myself to push through again.
But then I failed another midterm.
For the rest of the semester, I literally would get dreams, no, NIGHTMARES, about Chem all the time. (This happens to me a lot. Whenever I get stressed about something, it doesn’t leave me alone, even when I’m sleeping.) I would dream that I failed Chem and then would have to drop out of Hopkins. Or I would dream that I would just implode in the middle of Chem class. Or I would dream that I would accidentally set myself on fire in Chem Lab class.
Of course, none of these things happened. I have a wild imagination, even when I am unconscious.
But, you can gather just how nervous I was about Chem.
After the second drop period was over, I felt like I had made a big mistake. I had already failed two midterms and dropping the class was not even an option anymore. However, I knew that if I could just do slightly better on the third midterm, that would put me in a good enough situation where if I just did well on the final, I could manage to clutch a C in the class.
Somehow, I managed to get a C on the third midterm. I had hope again.
But the night before the final exam had me feeling despondent again. I had spent most of the reading period going over all the past midterms for Chem and reviewing old information from before, instead of looking over the final chapter the professor taught during the last week of class. That’s how I’ve always been with studying. I always have to go in order. I can’t review the second chapter until after I’ve reviewed the first chapter first, even if I already know the first chapter really well. (This is a habit I am now formally committed to breaking so I can become a more efficient student.)
So come 11 pm the night before the final, I realized I still had not yet gone over any of chapter 13, the final chapter. I did not know the material at all. I called my mom and cried into the phone, saying that I was done for sure. I was going to fail Chem.
After I calmed down, I decided to ask my good friend, Jihoon, if he knew chapter 13 well enough to explain it to me. Luckily, he did. He lives on the floor right above mine so he came right down to my room and started helping me. He taught me all of chapter 13 in two hours. I was and still am so grateful to Jihoon for helping me out like that.
I went to bed around 1:30 am, feeling extremely uneasy about the next day’s exam. I had more nightmares that night.
The actual final went as difficultly as I had dreamed it would. I walked out feeling like all was lost. I could not solve about 3 entire problems. I had written down answers, but I really was so unsure about them that I considered those questions as unanswered.
I tried not to think about Chem anymore and went home after all my finals were over.
When I logged into SIS and clicked on “view transcript,” I really thought I was going to throw up.
Then, I saw that I had received a B- in Intro Chem.
Instantly, I started bawling. There were still people in cubicles next to me so I had no idea what they thought was happening, but I was so happy. It was probably one of the happiest, most surprising moments of my entire life.
Even though Chem was extremely stressful for me, I am glad I took the class and I feel that it taught me how to be more prepared for next semester. Looking back, there are definitely ways I could have worked smarter during Chem. Maybe not harder, because I worked extremely hard, but smarter. A lot of times I just stared at the Chem slides not understanding anything, when I should have went to Office Hours. I should have joined PILOT earlier. I should have made more Learning Den tutoring appointments.
But I am proud of myself. I am proud of myself for sticking with Chem, even when it got so hard. And I am even prouder of the fact that I managed to get a whopping B-.