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Taking a semester off

  1. Mar 8, 2010 #1
    This semester I transferred from a big public state university that was about 2 hours away from home to a top 20 private university that is about 14 hours away from home. I was doing very, very well at my old school, and I transferred because I wanted a more challenging environment. I'm taking graduate courses this semester and am in general learning a lot.

    The issue is that I really hate being here. It's a great school, but it has done nothing at all to help me socialize. I've been thrown into this big community in the middle of the year and told to navigate it all by myself. I can't do it--I'm just not outgoing enough.

    Half the semester has passed and I'm burnt out. Graduate classes are very, very time consuming. With no friends and no time to make friends, I'm not happy, and my academic performance is starting to slide as a result.

    I have the ability to resume study next semester at my old school and make everything like it was. Because this is my first semester at my new school, I can drop every class without anything showing up on my transcript at any time. In other words, I could just go home, take a month or so off to recoup, and pretend this semester didn't happen. I've got a summer research position already lined up, so if I did this I would be at home until the end of this semester, then I'd go to the summer position, and then afterwards I'd resume study at my old school with all my old friends.

    I've got to do something because I'm miserable with my current situation. Part of the problem is that--and I fully admit this--I developed as so many people do an obsession with being the best, with being nearly perfect in mathematics, and a little bit of an obsession with going to a prestigious graduate school. This is why I came here. As I now know, it was a bad reason to transfer, even though the admissions people apparently liked it enough to admit me. This experience has led me to reevaluate all of this, and I now realize that being happier and enjoying life should always take much higher priority.

    By going home early this semester and then resuming study at my old school next semester, I think I'd be a lot happier, but I would sort of in the process give up my chance of making it into Princeton (say). But I'm actually feeling that I'm okay with that, and it's a very relieving feeling to not put myself under such pressure.

    Ordinarily I would freak out at the thought of falling a semester "behind," but I'm learning to let go, to stop caring so much about always being ahead of everyone else, and so I'm actually considering doing this for my own sake, for my emotional well-being.

    What do you think? Has anyone here went through a similar situation? I've discussed this with my parents. They understand how much trouble I've had socially adjusting here, and they will be more than happy to welcome me back home for half a semester if I decide that it's in the best interest of my emotional health to do so. That said, they do think it would be better for me to finish this semester. I completely understand why they say this, but I'm honestly not so sure; I'm fairly "messed up" right now socially, and I think it could do me a lot of good to have a month off--I feel very overworked right now. Of course, when most people feel very overworked, burnt out, and socially isolated, they have to deal with it--but it does not always end well; perhaps it usually doesn't end well. I feel like I should take advantage of this chance to emotionally recharge myself while I have it because I know later in life this won't be a possibility.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 8, 2010 #2
    I will also fully admit that some of the discussions that have occurred here in this forum lately have got me thinking about doing this. For instance, this thread (https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=384318) made me realize that my goals are in many ways just like those of the OP, and the responses to him are more or less responses to me. I feel like I may have put myself into this trap of constantly wanting to be better, never being satisfied, and I see taking this semester off as a way of disarming this trap, getting rid of my obsession with being the "best," recouping emotionally, and rejoining my old friends at my old school and just enjoying life.
     
  4. Mar 8, 2010 #3
    I've talked to various people about this, and one common suggestion has been that I should finish this semester and then go back to my old school--this way I wouldn't lose my work this semester and I'd still be happy and with friends next semester, etc.

    At my old school, I roomed with one of my very best friends, and we more or less took the same classes. We're both math/computer science majors, for instance, and we went to high school together. At some point I got obsessed with getting "ahead", so I started taking summer classes, I ended up a semester ahead of him, and now I'm here. If I go home early this semester, he and I will once again be exactly matched up, and we could continue taking classes together.

    Perhaps this sounds like a really silly reason, but I'm not so sure. It's awfully, awfully nice having a good friend to take hard classes alongside.
     
  5. Mar 8, 2010 #4
    zpconn, taking a semester off (or dropping a class) is definitely a good idea. Notice I'm the OP of that other thread. I have never taken a semester off or dropped a class myself, but I have already decided that I'm open to it if I ever find myself in a situation like yours.

    Once things start piling up and time becomes short, just one little, tiny mistake can have a cascading affect on your work for all of your courses. I've already felt it.

    If I were you, though, I would look into your other options. First, you can always drop a class, instead of taking an entire semester off. If you go back and take that course again next semester and do well, no one's going to care. You can also try to get an excused semester off at your current institution, so you can go back next semester, with a lighter work load or with more preparation. The stress is clearly having a tangible effect on your studies, and most universities would be happy to let you take a semester off.

    Whatever you decide, make sure you talk to who you need to talk to at your university before you make your decision. Call your advisor and set up a meeting. Talk with your professors about it.

    If spring break is soon for you, talk to your advisor before then, and use the free time to think it over.
     
  6. Mar 8, 2010 #5
    Thanks for your response.

    I wouldn't be able to allow myself to just stay at my parents' home doing nothing for a semester. I can't justify doing that, even though my parents would let me. But getting a job for such a short period of time is not feasible; in fact, getting a job for any period of time isn't very feasible in my hometown.

    I can think of all sorts of reading I could do over that time period, and I wouldn't consider this a waste of time, but I still can't justify it.
     
  7. Mar 8, 2010 #6
    You ever see the movie adventureland? It's not a great movie overall but still....
     
  8. Mar 8, 2010 #7
    Nope, I haven't seen it. Anyway, I've decided I'm not going anywhere after a lot of thought.
     
  9. Mar 10, 2010 #8
    Good luck.
     
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