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Feeling directionles .

  1. Aug 15, 2006 #1
    Feeling directionles.....


    I'm an undergraduate at the University of California - Berkeley majoring in physics. I have been here 3 years and have suffered many problems. Two years ago I was diagnosed with a severe mental illness, went on a lot of medication, and subsequently landed myself, hallucinating, in a mental hospital -- 2 semesters ago. After much prodding I was able to get myself readmitted to the university for the next semester. I took my first upper division courses, Quantum Mechanics I and Statistical and Thermal Physics and received a 'B' in both. These were the only classes I took as I was required to take a reduced course load.

    I'm going into my fourth year here (though I will be here more than a year from now) and I have yet to declare my major, do any sort of research or labwork, or maintain a decent GPA for graduate school. I have a 2.95 overall in University courses. I also received an F in multivariable calculus after I stopped attending. I retook it and got a B+.....but if you count the F my physics/math GPA is a mere 2.33, if the F isn't counted it's a 2.7......

    I have read that most graduate programs require a 3.0 in both overall gpa and math/physics gpa.

    I was at first interested in space/astro physics, and there exists a double major here at berkeley that many physics majors take opportunity of. I gave up on that long ago and am now aiming for just a physics degree.

    I'm pretty stable for now, but when I look to the future I am not really seeing anything. Many of my peers around me have been doing research, honors thesis, some getting admitted to Caltech, MIT, Harvard, and back to Berkeley...

    To tell the truth I am a bit of a loner. I do most problem sets by myself (not always easy) and have not traditionally socialized much with the people in my classes. The next semester is coming up and I am hoping to change this as I am taking a lab course and Quantum II.

    However, I can be quite lazy and diffident. I sleep a lot (maybe from all my medications) and have some anxiety issues related to talking to professors (often I am afraid I will say something stupid, although I know I shouldn't care). Sometimes I think about dropping out of school and seeing Alaska...somewhere I've always wanted to go.

    I like Physics a lot, though I don't know how much I would enjoy doing research. I'm not completely sure of the subfield I would be interested - other than Astro. Perhaps I have not gone far enough in physics to know yet? However, I would like to keep things open if I decide I want to go to grad school....though my gpa now is pretty disheartening.........At this point I could care less about the "prestige" of the university.

    Does anyone have some advice? I have read some posts on this board and most people seem very friendly and helpful.

  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 15, 2006 #2
    wow ..i only skimmed ill come back later and read it again ....well done ..in getting better for the moment (being stable). doing problem sets by yourself is good ..i say however now and again its good to do it with somebody else to get somebody else's input however i supose u already know that .. if u want to do research keep it up ...get a good group of friends around u for support get out there and meet people..battle ur anxieties ..they seem to be the least of ur problems ..if u have a severe mental "problems". ....there should be quite alot of people in here who unlike me can talk from experience ...so good luck ..ill be back later.
  4. Aug 15, 2006 #3
    Wait, wait... you were hallucinating in a hospital after you went on medication?

    I realize this may be an uncomfortable thought, but perhaps you should consider that this medication is doing you more harm than good. Doctors aren't all-knowing nor all-caring. You alone have to take first responsibility for what you put into your body. No doctor can force medication or treatment on you unless there are particular legal circumstances, such as if you are a danger to others or yourself. Laws differ by state. Unless that applies to you, you do not have to continue putting up with treatment you don't think is working.

    Perhaps your illness is not your own defect, but a consequence of you being in the wrong place, feeling trapped into doing something that's seriously not your thing.

    Feeling lost and directionless during college can put a lifetime of stress and aggravation on a person. You may not need the added stress and aggravation this medication is putting on your mind and body. Try changing something in your environment or behavior before resorting to more medication.

    i think you've already given yourself some good suggestions, such as change of location, topic, and method of study.

    Being in a quiet Alaskan observatory is just about the opposite of being a student at Berkeley. I could understand that you'd develop problems at Berkeley, if what you want is the former.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2006
  5. Aug 16, 2006 #4
    Well, I was kind of half joking when I said I wanted to drop out and move to Alaska. I've never been there so it would be a quite impulsive thing to do.....Though maybe in the future.

    I like physics and I don't think I'm ready to drop out.
    My health is better now than it has been in my entire college career...so that is a good thing. I just feel like all my options have been closed...........
  6. Aug 16, 2006 #5
    Hi Tom, congrats on your recovering health.

    I think this is true in most circumstances. Your circumstance is somewhat unique, so don't let this discourage you.

    It's good that you recognize that this is something to work on. Despite the romantic idea of Einstein sitting by himself as a patent office clerk, physics is a collaborative venture. It is expected that students will work together on problem sets (that's why you have that nice reading room on the second floor of LeConte!) and that grads/post-docs/faculty will collaborate on projects. In fact, without knowing the details your situation, I imagine your grades would improve quite a bit just from working with other students. (For one your brain uses information that you've learned differently when you're explaining and listening to your peers. For another it's emotionally reassuring to see other people with no idea what's going on.)

    This is another thing that is important and that I encourage you to work on. Don't let courses slip because you're too embarassed to go to office hours! I made a point to be the "stupid annoying kid who went to office hours regularly." Not only did I get a lot more out of the class, but I got to know the professor much better and was able to ask him for letters of rec. for grad school.

    Advice #1 and #2: see above.

    Advice #3: Don't be discouraged! It sounds like you've had a few rough years but that they're mostly behind you. Leave it that way and don't let your gpa haunt you.

    Advice #4: Pick up the pieces where you are. If there are big decisions to make, you can make those. (E.g. do you want to change universities?) Take the courses that are naturally in sequence for you and do your best on them, keeping in mind the bits of advice #1 and #2 above.

    Advice #5: You seem sure that you'll be at UCB for at least another semester. You can put off grad apps for another year or so and work on getting back into physics. Get into undergraduate research--this can do wonders for your self confidence, as well as give you closer contact with professors and a taste of research in a subfield of physics. If you're interested in astro there are plenty of opportunities for you where you are.

    Advice #6: When you do apply for grad school, you will probably want to apply to a range of 'safety schools' as well as the big name schools in your subfield (astro of whatever you might discover). Talking to professors is a great way to identify the lesser known schools with very strong programs in a particular subfield. When you talk to your professors asking for letters of rec, you'll want them to explain your personal circumstances regarding your GPA. That will go a long way in having admissions committees weight your performance on your last years at Berkeley rather than your first few.

    Advice #7: Don't be afraid to relax once in a while! I've been spending the summer at UCB... go visit Tilden Park and SF once in a while (if you feel guilty bring some physics reading for the bus). Enjoy the SPS events. Treat yourself to a Naia gelato now and then. :smile:
  7. Aug 16, 2006 #6
    first some personal advice, I went through life up until I entered my junior year of high school as a loner (I never went out to do anything other than with my family), I honestly believe that if I hadn't made the change to being social I would have landed myself in a mental institution. After all human's are pack animals, we have for the entire course of our history lived in social settings.

    One easy way to meet people would be to do like you said and go to the study groups, if for no other reason then to be social.

    Also my uncle had problems with severe depression during his college years, and because of this his grades suffered alot, however when he eventually got better he worked hard and was able to get into MIT grad, where he earned his phd. in hydrology and is now working in hydrology for San Fransisco.

    So if you've conquered your personal demons and you have the drive you can get to good grad schools.
  8. Aug 16, 2006 #7
    This is very true though I do interact with some people due to my living situation.. Although there was one semester I lived alone due to some circumstances and that was much lonelier.
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