Academically Monogamous

Hi, I’m Anne-Rosa (this is not an alcoholic anonymous article, I swear. You don’t have to greet me), and I’ve just started my seventh, and hopefully last, semester at UCR. I took a leave of absence one and a half years ago, meaning I had to stay for another semester, while I saw everyone I thought I would be graduating with, graduate. Without me.

I accepted it because what else can I do? And here we are, living the seventh-semester life. During my first class of the semester, a professor (whom I will keep anonymous unless they want the credit for their amazing idea) threw a random idea at us. He said that we, the students, actually should have a whole semester to focus on nothing but our senior project. And so, my mind started working out the logistics; it would be best to add another semester to make this possible. A seventh semester.The splendid seventh SEPR semester. Already sounds great, right? In that incredible alliteration you
can just feel the power of the creative writing course I took last semester. (This article is not sponsored by Chad Weidner, even though I do fully recommend the course.)

There is so much scholarly pressure put on us – or, in my case (which others might relate to), put on me by myself. The whole summer break, I kept thinking about the need to finish my senior project while passing my courses. I will spare you the details of my academics-related nightmares because, frankly, they got pretty weird.

Maybe it’s the neurodivergence in me, but I can only throw myself at one thing at a time: either that super big mountain of stress and despair one might call a senior project (I actually enjoy working on it, but, again, can only enjoy the work if I can give myself completely, like a newlywed virgin at their wedding night) or my academic courses. You could say I am monogamous, and not only in my romantic relationships but also in academic affairs: I can only focus on one aspect of my education at a time.

I feel like I keep having to choose between my love for my courses and my love for my senior project. In the first half of last semester – which was the semester when I started casually seeing my senior project –, I did not do much for my SEPR (please, do not tell my supervisor). I dedicated my academic time to my courses, until, during the spring break, I abruptly broke up with them, and finally got to second base with my senior project; an affair that lasted all spring break. (Literally, ask my boyfriend, we went to Nice, France, and even when we were on the top of a mountain to look at the beach-filled view, I sat down to work on my senior project.) This was not meant to be a holiday-only fling,
however, slowly but surely, as the second half of the semester began, I got together with my ex: my courses. Maybe I am the only one experiencing this, but let me tell you: these on-again, off-again academic relationships are exhausting.

When my boyfriend and I started dating, he was about to start his bachelor’s thesis, a SEPR for the non-UCR world. He had already finished his courses and had all the time in the world to focus on his thesis. He attended online meetings every other Monday, meaning he was completely responsible for his own failure or success. He eventually finished his thesis, and in the process, he learned a lot about himself and his work ethic; about how to handle that sweet, sweet senior project freedom better than I ever will at UCR. I think having more freedom and no courses while working on his thesis taught him valuable lessons – such as how to push yourself and get things done, even though you do not really want to, and you have no habits enforced on you by others to do it for you.

University prepares us for our professional careers – or is at least supposed to. So wouldn’t a separate senior project semester, testing if we are in fact ready to handle such a big responsibility, without our courses stressing us or supporting us with a schedule, be a good idea? What would be a better test than throwing students in the deep after three years of academic hand-holding? For sure, this might not work for everyone. But students should still be given more freedom in deciding when to finally tie the knot with their senior project.

By Anne-Rosa de Gorter

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