These are the musings of one of our current MSc students tussling with coursework. Comments (in the form of annotating R-code with a #) are copy-pasted from Sarah’s second assessed R assignment (these are from the pre-submission version!).
#check with scatterplot
#plotting like a normal person
#you need xs and ys!!!
#ummm…that means no correlation, at least I’m pretty sure that’s what it means
#let’s try relationship to twinning!
#twins should have lower birth weights compared to singletons.
#yes, I was right!
#I’ve already forgotten what the question was asking…
#whoops, that was actually part of the last question
#Gawd, I keep forgetting what the question is!
#Oh look, I’ve written it up there! Doy!
#OK let’s start with a table
#most of these questions seem to start with tables
#OK, what am I working with here?
#hmmm… I don’t think that’s correct, let me try…
#nope, that didn’t work either
#let’s switch variables!
#OK, this looks a bit more… better
#yeah, this whole hist function is useless to me
#OK, I honestly don’t know how to do this at all
#trying out the example for apply functions
#trying example for tapply
#Ah ha! That’s how you do it!
#A thing! I made a thing that looks like it makes sense!!!!
#OMG, I think that worked!!!
I’m sure I’m not the only person who runs that sort hysterical, self-deprecating inner monologue while working on R projects, or any projects for that matter. Maybe you shout insults at yourself aloud in the third person. You could be the type to stringently deny yourself food, tea, bathroom breaks, and/or social contact until you finish just one more thing.
Let’s face it. We are all in a very demanding educational program. Not only that, but this master’s thing, it’s so much more than just a higher degree to us. As you may have already noticed, no matter how confident we seem on the outside, a lot of times it feels like we are standing with our toes hanging off a steep cliff of anxiety with a black hole of despair right below us. It doesn’t take a lot to tip any of us over the edge. Marks have started coming at us thick and fast, weighty and complex projects abound, meanwhile those dreaded exams loom ever closer.
There doesn’t even have to be an actual bad mark that shoves you over your black hole’s event horizon. The dread of a big test could be enough. You might walk out of the lecture theatre thinking, “Ow, my brain hurts…” or be sitting in a lab staring blankly at the computer screen while everyone else types away happily.
Horrible thoughts circle around your head:
I’m going to flunk out.
The jig is up. They’ve all figured out how stupid I am.
Everyone else understands this concept. I must be idiotic since I don’t.
There’s been a mistake, they let me into this program by accident.
And so on…
Well guess what? You’re lying to yourself.
All of us, yes you, and every single one of your classmates are quantitatively amazing people. You’re in this program, aren’t you? That alone is awesome! It means you, yes you, stood out in a highly competitive crowd. Yeah, all right, all right, getting in is one thing, but check it out gals and guys, you’re here! I want you to stop for a moment, like, really stop (that’s right, I’ve thrown in a “like,” and for a Southern Californian that means it’s really getting like totally serious). Think about what you knew about statistics last week. (Pause) Now think about all the stuff you know today. If you don’t believe me, go look at one of the past assignments. I’m telling you. Go into your notes and look at the R practical or the lecture notes from last Monday. Don’t worry, I’ll wait for you to go do it. (Pause) Did you look? Yeah! That stuff looks way easier now. Don’t stop there! Scale that sort of thinking up. Think about how smart and educated you thought you were walking into St Andrews. Now think about everything you know now about the various behaviours and ways of studying the pinnipeds of Scotland, the pros and cons of using stranding data, making illustrative maps with GIS, using R to show off the statistical significance of a dataset, how great killer whales are… If I were to list even half of what we’ve learned I’d miss Christmas! And you’ve learned all of that since September! Awesome, right?
There are other super stellar amazing people in this course who are riding the same emotional roller coaster. No matter who you are in the class, you are surrounded by genuinely decent people who would be more than happy to lend an ear or a shoulder or helping hand when you need it. After all, you and I and all of us would do the same if someone came to us. Nifty how that works out isn’t it?
So you see, after all that, how great you are, how great your classmates are, all that awful stuff isn’t really that worrisome really. I mean exams… phhhish! You’ve learned the material, you know how to prepare, you’ve done the mock exam, been to the tutorials, you’ve got a strong support network… you’ve got this!
Geronimo! Tally Ho! Bonsai! Once more unto the breach! Don’t stop believing!
I think you get the picture. 🙂