Rewrite your textbook. seriously rewrite it (plus Halloween)


Despite the chipper greeting, dang, am I tired. Mech 3 exam is today, and I am determined to do better on this one than the last. I was up ’til 2:30 last night. Here’s a really big tip, kiddies: always read your textbook. Some chapters that I skimmed on I’m now realizing are a lot easier than I was making them out to be, and something that isn’t always totally clear in-class or something you’re not completely sure of is often cleared up in the book.

Also, a really good technique I’ve learned is to literally rewrite the textbook. As I read through each chapter, I pull out my notebook and paraphrase what the textbook is saying–not word for word or sentence by sentence, but writing out and explaining the concepts and applications and equations of each chapter and how they’re used, as if I’m writing a guide for another person. Not only does writing a sort of “guide” help you understand, it provides literally the best study guide when finals roll around. The only trap you have to avoid is skimming over something you don’t quite understand, or sort of “fibbing it” and copying the textbook too closely if you’re not quite sure how to explain something on your own. If you don’t understand it, go through example problems really thoroughly, reread it, and seriously? Experiment with different things. Be confident in your ability to figure it out! Trust me, it’s amazing how much that helps. If I’m thinking to myself, “oh, I’ll fail this, why am I even trying?” I’ll tend to flail around and just grab at possible solutions wildly instead of dedicating myself to logically figuring it out.

Now! On to something else! (Man, I’ve been talking about academics a lot lately, eh?)


If you know me and/or have read any of my previous blog posts (particularly from last October), you’ll know one of my hobbies is making costumes, so–naturally–my favorite holiday is none other than Halloween. This year, I did two costumes–one for Spectrum’s party and one for the yearly Lehigh party. If any of you are familiar with Hedwig and the Angry Inch: here! and then I did a generic zombie/walker: here! (…mild blood warning? It’s all cheapo acrylic paint and food coloring, but just in case.) I was going to wear my Narnia costume (here) but it couldn’t get shipped in time. Ah well.

Anyway! Hope you had an AWESOME Halloween, and y’all take care of yourselves during exam week. Remember to take breaks every now and then while studying, stretch your legs, and try to be sure you’re hydrated and wide awake on exam day. Good luck!


Let’s explore why I’m glad I failed Calculus.

This is college. Classes are hard–a lot harder than high school–and there’s a lot more work and responsibility to handle.

With that said, some of us are going to have to retake classes. It’s a simple fact of moving up the academic ladder. Success isn’t always straightforward.

I find that a lot of people in the engineering and technical-specialized-stuff disciplines–you know, the kids who pride themselves on being the “supersmart geniuses”–are really averse to the topic of “not doing so well,” having to retake a class, not being “ahead,” or having to get tutoring, or the like. Well, I have news for you.

It’s a heck of a lot worse to fail or barely scrape by and end up having ten times the difficulty in higher-level classes instead of asking for help, going to tutoring sessions, forming study groups, and in some cases, taking another shot at it. You’re a damn engineer. Since when has “hacking at it repeatedly with the exact same technique hoping it’ll magically work this time” ever EVER been a viable solution to a problem?????? UGH. What’s the first step to finding a solution? Look at your options. Not just the option you “really like.” Look at ALL THE OPTIONS.

I’m taking Calc 2 for the second time. And you know what? First Calc 2 class I took here at Lehigh, my final grade was something horrid. It was like… 54% or something. I barely understood what I was doing and panicked and just tried memorizing a bazillion formulas before the test. Ha ha ha. Not gonna fly, obviously. So, I’m still in Calc 2 right now while some of my engineering peers are taking–what is it?–linear algebra? I think so. But also–guess what?

Just got my 4:00 exam back, and it’s 100% this time. I’m not kidding–one hundred freaking percent. Perfect score. I literally aced the test. And on top of that, my confidence and fluidity when using calculus to solve problems is tenfold now, and–example of my ultimate nerdiness–I was so happy about my mastery of the material that I actually taught my mom how to calculate arc lengths over the phone. Sure, I could have studied a bit more last semester and barely scraped by with a C-, but I would have a C- sitting on my GPA like an elephant PLUS I’d probably have failed Calc 3 and had to take a class over again anyway.

Like I said, success isn’t always straightforward. I’m actually pretty glad I’m where I am with calculus–despite dreaming since I was 4 of being an engineer, my relationship with math is sometimes a bit rocky, and I really prefer being able to say “I aced my test and there’s literally not a single thing I don’t understand” instead of “I’m having a lot of trouble and I don’t totally understand what I’m doing but I didn’t fail so I must be doing something okay.”

If you end up “failing” and/or having to retake a class, or you’re worried about a grade in a particular class, take a deep breath. Retaking a class is not the end of the world, and sometimes, it could possibly yield a net benefit greater than the net benefit of not retaking in the long-run–which isn’t something often considered. (How do you think that shiny lil’ 100% is going to look when replacing that putrid 54% in my GPA, after all?)

Don’t listen to anyone who tells you retaking a class, going to get tutoring, or asking for help is bad, or that you’re somehow “less intelligent” or “failing” or “not good enough.” Oh, and that includes yourself. Please don’t talk yourself into thinking you’re not doing good enough if something doesn’t turn out how you expected it to, or–to put it frankly–you don’t end up meeting your own expectations. Seriously. You’re not a fortune-teller–you don’t know what’s going to happen between now and then that might affect the feasibility of your goal! Technically speaking, you can’t even be 100% sure that the goal you’ve set is completely possible on its own. Set goals to the best of your ability, but don’t think those goals have to be completely inflexible. A failed goal is when you give up, not when you try a different attack angle or rethink what the goal is. Remember: engineers don’t try one solution to a problem, especially when that friggin’ solution doesn’t work.

And to finish off, here’s a few resources to help you out, if you don’t know where to start. — Lehigh’s very own Professor Salathe put together a companion “textbook” (not really a full textbook–it’s meant to be a complement to your calculus class) to go along with most Calc 1 and 2 classes. It’s actually really helpful, and isn’t too expensive–like, under $20.

Tutoring — Lehigh’s Center for Academic Success offers tutoring in various forms–walk-in tutoring for a variety of topics, weekly sessions in some of the larger freshman res halls, and regular group sessions on a lot of first- and second-year classes.

PurpleMath — For those of you like me, sometimes you need a reminder of more basic things. EVERYTHING related to algebra, trigonometry, and even some calculus-related topics like series and sequences are all there, covered in glorious step-by-step format. Also REALLY helpful for engineers who need a review on matrices/vectors, systems of equations, and there’s also literally an entire section dedicated to how to pick apart word problems.

  • For a more calculus-based how-to, check out PatrickJMT on YouTube. If you’re stuck and need a quick explanation, his videos tend to do pretty well, but also talk to your professor if you really don’t understand something–there’s a HUGE benefit to actually being able to ask questions! I’d suggest watching the entire video really closely one time through, then watch it again and try to work through your problem at the same time, following each step he makes.

Study Skills at Lehigh — Also offered by the Center for Academic Success is help with study skills. Time management and reward/motivation, memory, stress, learning styles and conflicts, and anxiety are just a few of the topics touched upon. Basically: if you’re having trouble getting homework done or aren’t doing so well in a class and either aren’t sure why or aren’t sure what to try different, go here and request to talk to someone seriously do it do it do it. Let’s be real–sometimes you need another set of eyes on a problem. It’s literally just like how you sometimes have to have someone else look at your math problem to point out where you’re messing up, because a lot of the time, you just simply can’t see it. They also do workshops for student groups, teams, organizations, clubs, fraternities, sororities, res halls… you name it.

And finally: Lehigh University Directory. A lot of the time, one of the best people to ask is your professor. That link will take you to a person-look-up-type thing where you can type in your professor’s or TA’s last name and find their website, email, address, and sometimes office phone number, too.

Wow. This is a really long post. Anyway, thanks for sticking with me, and I hope I could provide some useful advice and/or help!

The Final Push

Just one more exam left. That’s it…that’s the only thing between me and a glorious four-day long Pacing Break. Yesterday was my Physics 21 exam and it was alright. I messed some easy bits but got other, more difficult, stuff right. Hopefully the class average is low but only time will tell, one week to be exact as that’s when we’ll get the test back. Tomorrow is the dreaded Calc 3 exam as well. I say dreaded simply because I haven’t been able to study the vast amount of material the exam will cover on account of my physics exam taking up my time. I’ll be doing nothing but studying tonight so hopefully I’ll be prepared tomorrow. One thing is for sure though, Thursday when I walk out of my exam Ill feel good no matter what.

More exams, inequity in the classroom, Grecian news, and coffee backpacks

4:00 exams are still going strong. (Mechanics wasn’t too pretty–it’s a tough class, but we’ll get there eventually.) I’m pretty confident in my Economics exam. And Calculus is this Thursday–oh, boy, that’s tomorrow, isn’t it. Time flies.

Speaking of the Economics exam. Ah, don’t sit in the front row if you can help it. Pfft. I literally had about four more words to write to finish my sentence–and the TA quite literally just yanked the paper out of my hands. Ya wanna talk economics? The people in the back got to finish writing! Unfair distribution of resources! (Which is inequity, by the way, equity being fair distribution. Ha.) Anyway, I’m still confident in the rest of my answers. (Also, there was a question about Hamlet. GO, ENGLISH SKILLZ. although if you read the cover page of the exam, the answer was like. right there.)

On a more serious topic, there has been an incident within Lehigh’s Greek life recently–I’m hesitant to write about the topic, but alas, the subject matter is quite important to me.

One of the fraternities was recently charged with several counts of misconduct; there’s an update here. Included in the report is what I believe has been a repeated occurrence of direct negative bias toward non-heterosexual people–reports mention a “chant” used as a drinking song or drinking game that, from my observation, seemed to imply the member was gay if he did not drink along, or something to that effect; the report isn’t terribly clear on the specifics.

As president of Spectrum, and as an LGBT-identified person myself, this is particularly alarming. Despite that Lehigh’s Greek life is taking wonderful steps forward–Greek Allies is gaining momentum and support, and the president of one of the sororities has organized a Pride Walk (like a pride parade) around campus in order to garner support and show LGBT involvement in Greek life, which will be awesome–there is still discriminatory bias here. It still happened. From the reports, I personally do not think concluding that multiple members of this fraternity participated in this behavior over a longer period of time is unreasonable; people have reported this chant/song is sung on chapter members’ birthdays and other notable occasions, so it is not a once-or-twice problem. No reports of members standing up against it, or feeling comfortable standing up against it, have surfaced yet except for the report from the anonymous student who initially notified the police. I feel an implicit trust has been broken here, and as it’s impossible to tell who engaged in the chant and who did not, I’m quite perplexed when faced with what my appropriate reaction is or should be.

This isn’t a lost case, though. Phi Kappa Theta, I strongly encourage and welcome you to reach out to the LGBTQIA+ community and resources here on campus and elsewhere. I cannot speak for everyone, but I believe many of us are willing as ever to spread awareness of these issues–LGBTQIA+ folk are your fellow students, your friends, your family, possibly your fellow brothers, and that is never something to be ashamed of or ridiculed. Diversity of all kinds should be celebrated; I hate that this opportunity for contact arises from such an awkward incident, but I do believe we can all use this to build better, stronger bridges than before.

And to end on a lighter note, I need a new coffee mug. I bike all over campus, so I put my coffee in my backpack’s side pocket most of the time, but then… of course, I forget it’s there, throw my backpack on the floor/couch/my bed/etc., and it spills all over the books and papers in my backpack. My backpack has a nice smell of Starbucks’ Pike Place Medium Roast now, to which I do not completely object, but so does half my calculus homework, which is now stained a nice, delicious walnut color. -siiiigh-

Pacing Break is almost upon us. Keep at it, folks. You’re almost there!

Starting Off on the Right Foot

Today I finally got back my Mech 3 exam I took last Tuesday. I have a bad habit when it comes to taking exams and that’s stressing out about them after I hand them in. In all honesty, it’s hard not to though. Immediately afterward we all ask our friends what they got for certain answers and how they did certain problems and of course there are going to be discrepancies. This always happens to me and I stress about what I did wrong and I try to calculate my grade before its given back to me. For this first exam I had convinced myself that I had gotten a 65% on it, but to my surprise I had actually earned a 92%. What I’ve learned is that’s it’s best to just let it go after you hand in an exam and stop worrying about it. It’ll save you a lot of stress and will let you focus more on other work that needs to be done.

4:00 exams, credit loads, and free books

Mech 3 exam was yesterday, and boy, was it brutal. The class is cool–it’s all vectors and forces and physics and stuff, which is… well, the stuff for mechanical engineering, no?–but it’s tough. General consensus talking to other students is pretty much the same. Only three questions–tough questions–and one hour to do them? Phew. The last question really threw me off.

Anyway! This semester goes to show that even if you don’t have a massive credit load, your semester can still be pretty unbelievably busy. I decided to go light on the credit load this semester, but apparently, the school deities-that-be have decided I don’t get much of a break, considering most of my classes require a huge time commitment. Like my theater class for my minor. It’s only two credits, but it’s three hours of class a week and a minimum of three hours of lab time. My 4-credit physics class had a similar setup last year. And then on top of that, I am currently serving as President of Spectrum, Lehigh’s LGBTQIA student group–which is awesome, to be honest, but it’s a fair amount of work. (By the way, y’all should come drop by a Spectrum meeting or discussion group meeting! 4:30 on Mondays and 5:00 on Thursdays in the Rainbow Room!)

Anyway, I’m not complaining–nooo, never complaining–but it’s a little surprising! Lehigh really pushes you, huh.

Now. Free books. WHO WANTS FREE BOOKS?? There’s a reading and discussion group for Ryan Sallans and Janet Mock’s books Second Son and Redefining Realness, respectively, going on today at 4:15 in the East Faculty Lounge in the UC. I’ll be there! You get free books if you come. Not to mention–these writers? They’re fantastic. They’re both supremely prominent LGBTQIA activists, particularly in the transgender field. Both writers identify as transgender, meaning they’ve both transitioned from one gender to another. Also, just a PSA: that doesn’t mean they were “born the opposite gender,” it just means they don’t identify as the gender the doctor said they were when they were born. Many transgender people feel they were always the gender they identify as–but they didn’t realize how to explain it or nobody believed them. I’ve read both books, and they’re really, REALLY helpful for anyone wanting to be involved in transgender activism (or just be more up-to-date with trans issues in general), in my opinion–they’re a good glimpse into the minds and motives of trans folk, which means they’re perfect for allies and LGBTQIA-identified people alike.

And that’s all I’ve got for today. Hang in there with those exams, people! You can do it!

4o’clocks are done but yet exams continue

Yesterday marked the last day of 4o’clocks. However, this does not mean that exams are all done with. As you get higher up in your major and your classes get smaller you are less likely to have a 4oclock than an in class exam. In class exams are exactly like they sound. They are exams that are in class and they work the same as a 4oclock except there is not a specified time that your exam must take place. It is up to the professor to choose when your exam is.

In class exams can be around the time of the 4oclocks, if you have 2 midterms and 1 final but they do not have to be. If a class has more exams, or the professor wants to have the exam away from the 4’oclock time, then they are not around that time. For instance, ME255 (Intro to Aerospace Engineering) a course I took last year, had 3 midterms and 1 final. This means that in order to have the exams spread out they often did not line up with the 4oclock exam dates.

One of the bad things about in class exams is that you may have multiple in one day. This can happen with 4oclocks but it is less likely. When exams line up it is on accident, no professor would purposely put two exams on the same day for you. If this happens to you the best that you can do is to go and talk to the professor about the problem. You may be able to come up with a solution. If not then you just do your best and get through it.