(A week after the fall break, 2010)
Three Class Courses and Two Seminars
Being a graduate student in the United States of America is not an easy job. Lack of sleep, always under pressure especially a week before exams, non-stop laboratory works, and skip many social activities with friends are common scenarios a graduate student has had to endure while taking Ms. and Ph.D. courses. Nancylia, my friend in French will say, “c’est la vie” meaning “that’s life” if I start complaining of not getting enough rest or no mood to study. Nevertheless, I managed to pass my first year as a graduate student in the United States. To add more, I manage to adapt to my University’s academic system, as well as almost proficiently speak in American English and get used to listening the Southern drawl.
End of a summer break means the beginning of a Fall School Semester. My advisor asked me to register three main courses two weeks before the first class began. I registered the Population Genetic, Systematic and Museum Curatorial Method course. In addition, I took the Systematic Discussion and Hybridization Seminar. My advisor also wanted me to register a three hours credit for the dissertation and research work. Overall, I registered more than ten credit hours. Knowing that I took more courses than in previous semesters, I asked my advisor whether I could decrease my accumulated credit hours by dropping one seminar.
“Fred, I registered for three courses and two seminars. Could I drop the Systematic Discussion Seminar? I took the seminar last semester, and I’m afraid I can’t cope with all courses.”
“You’re in the second year, now. I’m sure you can cope with all courses. Claire, how many courses did have you registered for this semester?”
Claire, my junior, showed her high five to me. Immediately, I knew that she took the same number courses as me. My advisor encouraged me to take it as a challenge for my second year as a graduate year. I just smiled at him even though I doubted that I could pass all courses with flying colors.
The hardest course
From all the three main courses, I have the hardest time studying Population Genetics course. The syllabus requires students to attend classes twice and laboratory for two hours per week, sit for two exams, answer two problems sets, including design a mini genetic project as well as work on seven assignments analyzing given genetic data using six genetic programs. What an intensive course. Luckly, I ever used the five genetic programs for my Master study and previous courses from last semesters. However, for the other genetic program, I have Qing to help me, as she knows how to use it. Qing is my good friend, and I have known her since attending the same University as the first year graduate students. Besides Qing and I, there are three American and one Philippine student registered for that course. Instructor for this course is Dr. David, a population genetic expert in my University. He is a big, tall man with curly, white hairs and wearing a small eyeglasses frame. He seldom makes eye contact with his students. He could be a shy person or probably due to his small eyeglasses that make him has difficulty to concentrate his vision.
The course started with an introduction of the population genetics and terminologies that genetics always apply in their writing. Then, the course moved to the statistic and theory parts, which I have problems understanding of the underlying theory. To solve these problems, I would find other reference books and even search any reference materials using GOOGLE SEARCH. Dr. David did help me with the statistic part. My first impression of him, he is shy changed as he was so helpful with me and other students to grasp the course well. He always reminded all of us to start our assignments and genetic project early. Nevertheless, nobody seemed to care for what he said. Everybody was busy with his or her other works. A month was over; still I was lazy to start my first and second assignment. Qing always asked me whether I already started my assignments. She needed my expertise to help her in analyzing the given genetic data. Until one day, Qing called me, and she asked me to come to her lab.
“Qing, what’s up?”
“It’s good news. I want you to come to my lab now. Faster.”
I wondered why she was so eager to ask me to come. I went out from my office in the museum and walked out to the Biological Life Science Building. Once I arrived at Qing’s lab, I saw her was talking with Josh, her lab-mate. Josh’s southern accent greeted me. I asked Qing what was the great news. Josh smiled at me and suggested both of us to have a cup of coffee. Along the way down to the coffee counter, Josh asked me about the population genetic course.
“Hei Dency, how’s your population genetic course?”
“It’s hard for me to understand the course. But, I believe if I start doing my revision, I’m sure I can grasp the population genetic concepts.”
“That’s good. By the way, did you already start doing the first assignment?”
“I will do it next week.”
“Dency, Qing told me that you know how to use most of the programs. You should start earlier. Do not wait until the last minute. I want to tell you, those analyses are freaking hard. Trust me. I could not finish the IMa analysis. I took 2 weeks to try to use the program, but I gave up. I even wrote a note in my file telling Dr. David, that I could not understand how to do it.”
“What did you get for the course?”
“An A. Still, I am not satisfied with the course. It was a nightmare for me for taking that course. There was a girl, sat behind of me. She cried because she could not stand the pressure. I do not want to scare you, but I want you to prepare early. Help Qing. She always complaint to me, that the course is so hard, especially the analysis part.”
“So you want me to start early. Josh you almost scare me with your experiences taking the course.”
“Now you a bit scare. Ok let’s us have some coffee first. What do you want?”
I ordered a cup of mocha coffee while Qing chose a small cup of American coffee. Josh preferred a cup of hard coffee, and he paid all drinks. We went back to Qing’s lab and continued with our discussion there. Josh took his old file containing notes, assignments and test papers for the genetic population course. I checked thoroughly, and I realized that I needed to start to work out my assignments. The earlier, the better. Josh showed me note that he wrote telling Dr. David that he gave up using the program.
“Dency, I wanna you to read my note.”
“You win. What? You told him that he won.”
“As I have told you before, I could not understand how to use the IMa program. I want you and Qing to finish all the analyses. Treat it as the biggest challenge for both of you. Do it for me. If both of you manage to get an A, I will be the happiest man in Louisiana.”
I made promised to Josh that I would start my assignments as soon as possible. Qing smiled listening to what I had said to Josh. Since that day, we worked out as a team to finish the genetic assignments.
No shortcut to the top
Two months had passed, and the short three days fall break was over. Qing and I had done with three genetic assignments. Dr. David did give us the first set problem for all to do during the break. We managed to finish it on time. I already started my revision for the next exam for the population genetic course that will be held two weeks after the break. I am hoping I will pass on my next exam. I learn that there is no shortcut to get what I want in this life. If I want to achieve my dream to be a good academician, with hard work and perseverance, it can be achieved in the future.