The Freshman Winter Slump

I now sit on a bench at USC, basking in the rare luxury of a ray of warm sunshine and some slight breeze while reflecting on my first winter quarter at Northwestern.

It was a complicated quarter. Though my 3.5 grade-point average is a reflection of my complete lack of motivation throughout the entire quarter, I also don’t feel appropriate to alright label my past ten weeks as a complete failure,

It’s my first winter spent in Chicago, and as luck will have it, Polar Vortex had hit. Though I have survived the -40 C coldness, I am now realizing how soul-emptying it can be to spend ten weeks without sun.

My classes this quarter were not particularly interesting. My Ancient Philosophy class was dry and not explicated well, and my International Political Economy class seemed relevant but not intellectually stimulating enough. For some reason, I had no motivation to study.

Doing one reading after another, writing countless essays, and debating these abstract ideas suddenly lost its meaning. I wanted to feel alive: to date someone, to go out and stretch my body, to laugh, to move myself outside of this isolated vacuum that is called school.

I began to question the validity of the content I was learning, and as someone who has zero tolerance for things that are boring and irrelevant, I gave up. I stopped doing homework and refused to study for my exams. I told myself: If I get a bad grade, I’ll take it. I won’t waste my time on these classes - I would rather sleep and socialize.

But when I opened my grade for this quarter and was hit with Bs and B+s in my face, my heart sunk. I felt like my value depreciated as a person, even though I know that I am not defined by my grades. The narrative that those who are excellent are high-achieving students seems inescapable, circling me like a trap to choke me. Despite the countless times I told myself throughout the quarter that I will be okay no matter what grades I receive, I was not okay. I felt disappointed in myself and I am scared that my future employer will judge me differently based on my grades.

Perhaps it’s time to challenge what being a student means. By forcing students to resort into the system of grades, are we wasting their time to do other things that will have a bigger impact in the long run? Maybe yes, maybe no. With a population so big, it might be difficult to measure the quality of our labor. But I’m sure there are better ways to measure a student - we just have to think harder about what it will be.

Yujia HuangComment