I’m Not Ready | Reflecting on the Semester

Good judgment comes from experience. Experience often comes from bad judgment.

I’ve had my fair share of bad judgment, especially when it comes to school.

Here I am, now a senior in college, thinking that my college life is pretty much over given that I’m “almost done” with school. I have struggled lately with the idea that I there is so much I still haven’t learned, so many interesting classes I didn’t take, or so many times I zoned out in class and might have missed something really useful. Before, I just shrugged these thoughts off, telling myself that it’s too late to worry about my approach to education and I should just hurry and finish so I can start working.

But I think being thrown into a real project with a client company this semester freaked me out to the point that I questioned if I was even ready for this “real world” situation.  What I had to realize was that in life, we are never ready. No matter the situation, there is no way to be absolutely 100% prepared for what is to come. In school, we are often given a set of standards to follow – a syllabus, project guidelines, grade sheets, sample exams… to the point that it is very easy to consider yourself “done” studying once you know the information on a review, or “finished” with a project once you’ve completed all the required specifications. But what happens when there are no exams? How do you know when you have really learned something? How do you know how well your work has paid off?

Before my client project began, I looked around at my peers, who all seemed to already have a grasp of the knowledge required to handle a project such as this, and immediately discredited my own talents. Despite knowing deep down that I catch on quickly to computer languages, I shot down the idea of being one of the “technical” ones on the team. I had never used JavaScript, wasn’t familiar with .json objects, and had no knowledge whatsoever about React and chart.js. The fear of failing to grasp these concepts in a situation where the stakes were higher than simply a grade led me to shy away from even touching them at first.

But by the end of the project, my comfort level with the technology, the documentation, and working in a team was so much higher than I could have imagined. Even just within the scope of a class project, I felt the impact of my efforts in the outcome of our system and the way the client responded to our results. Though I didn’t feel “ready” to tackle a project with such an impact, my team’s willingness to exceed what was required made the project a success.

This semester forced me to think beyond just the classes, the organizations, the social life – truly, to look past college. After registering for my final semester of classes, I have rediscovered the importance of taking school seriously. It’s not about completing an assignment for the grade, nor is a project really “over” once you turn it in. And honestly, it’s not even about just taking school seriously. The time & effort you invest in all of the ways you choose to spend your time contributes to the larger picture of what kind of person you are. Even if you make mistakes or practice bad judgment, the experiences you have will add to your ability to make better decisions in the future.

So I guess what I realized in the past couple weeks is that education doesn’t end after graduation. Rather than scrambling to add more classes to my schedule, or even staying another semester and graduating on time, making the most of my remaining time at UT and learning to really understand my own strengths and interests is a skill that will extend beyond the span of a college career.

latakoo

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