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Lucas takes stock of his progress after his first two trimesters at Carleton.

Lucas takes stock of his progress after his first two trimesters at Carleton.

(First, I promised an update on my last post‘s goals: basically, things went well! I had more “show that” problems on my most recent physics assignment, and they went better than usual. Yay!)

My first winter trimester at Carleton is nearly over, which means I only have one more term left of my entire freshman year. That’s kind of crazy to think about. It’s exciting; I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot, and I think the “time flies when you’re having fun” phrase has definitely applied. It’s also a little stressful: my time here is actually kind of short! This isn’t a new goal or anything, but taking a moment to consider where I am in my Carleton journey has underlined my need to make the most of my time here. Before I continue trying to do that, though, I thought I’d take a look at where I’ve gotten myself so far.

The basics: I’ve made college friends, taken college classes, learned how to live as a college student (mostly), the regular. These things were both easier (well, except the classes) and more invigorating than I expected, for which I consider myself lucky. I know I can make more headway in all of these areas and more, though, and I’m excited to try.

I’ve gotten better at weekends! Over this most recent one, I made a makeshift theater out of a projector, a couple speakers, and an underground Cassat study room, and used it to screen Battlestar Galactica for a few friends. A great time.

Photo of opening scene of Battlestar Galactica projected onto a whiteboard, with a title card reading "The Cylons were created by Man."
They evolved.

In more specific areas, I’ve learned to address some of my academic weaknesses. I’m better at handling anxiety now, I think: instead of struggling alone, I’ve learned to take advantage of the Math Skills Center, for instance, and how to use more challenging classes as opportunities to strengthen my abilities. I’ve practiced a bit more self advocacy, and know the path forward to keep that momentum going. Oh, and I’ve learned a lot of French.

I’ve even improved in such random areas as my reading speed! I really can’t tell you why, but I’ve always been a rather slow reader. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading. Maybe a little too much. But I tend to mull over every word I see, and I definitely, often intentionally, subvocalize. When I can afford to, subvocalizing is nice: “hearing” a sentence in my head, on top of seeing it, often brings new meaning to the reading, thus adding to my overall comprehension.

However, as fall trimester proved to me, trying to get through the rest of college at my old reading speed just wasn’t going to cut it. I knew winter term would come with even heavier loads of reading, so right before it started, I figured I’d take a little benchmark and hopefully remember to repeat it at the end of the term to see if there was any measurable improvement. Well, I remembered, and I’m proud to say there is!

Screenshot of a reading speed test with a result of 170 words per minute
Before winter trimester…
Screenshot of a reading speed test with a result of 315 words per minute
…and after winter trimester!

Upon further research, 315 words per minute actually isn’t particularly fast, but it’s certainly an improvement. And the mere fact that I managed to almost double my legendarily glacial reading rate over the course of two-ish months is pretty cool to think about! So I’m happy with this. It’s helpful in class, and I’m curious to see how much farther I can push myself (without sacrificing comprehension).

Over spring break, I intend to continue what I guess has become a random and disorganized little campaign of self-improvement in a few different ways. I plan to keep the reading up — this is natural for me, but I’ll try to keep an eye out for times where my reading gets particularly ponderous this time. I also plan to sleep. Sleep is always nice. I’ll catch up with family, friends, and pets, but that’s also a given for me. I’ll definitely want to practice French! One lesson I learned the hard way this term is that it’s easy to lose a new language more quickly than anticipated over break.

Overall, I’m happy. I’m happy with Carleton, I’m happy with what I’ve done here, and I’m happy with the possibilities I have moving forward. I guess one more thing I’ve gotten better at, then, is appreciating positives. I definitely have a lot to work on, but hey, I’ve managed an entire post about things I think I’ve gotten better at! That’s something.

Most importantly, I’ve gotten the sense that I’ve fallen back in love with learning again here. I guess that statement confuses me a bit, because I don’t think I ever “fell out” of love with that. But whatever’s happened here has certainly felt new, in a way. I’ve learned, I’ve loved it, and there’s been a feeling of discovery to that process. For this I am immensely grateful.

I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Lucas is in his freshman year at Carleton, bringing with him a passion for all things nerdy and a talent for overthinking and awkwardness (and self-deprecation). He hails from Pasadena, California, and yes, he realizes it gets cold out here. Currently wildly undecided, he can see himself attempting a Physics and Cinema and Media Studies double major, although ChemistryEconomics, and Computer Science (among many other subjects) have been tempting him as well. He misses his bearded dragon.

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