Today was a day of reflection of our experiences here at Penn during our summer program. In class we were visited by a graduate of the Penn Summer Science Academy and current student of Penn. He came today to tell us about his experience in our program and how it relates to an actual physics major at Penn. He told us about how being a Physics major is much harder than the Summer Science Academy makes it out to be and that a good portion of physics majors typically change majors to something else.
At first I was skeptical of Jim. He began to tell us how he wasn't the best student in school and how he did the bare minimum amount of work to pass in college. I was thinking to myself that I was a much harder worker than that, which made me feel at ease about my chances of succeeding as a physics major. But then Jim described how he had taken Algebra 1 in the sixth grade, took AB and BC Calculus as a sophomore, and went to numerous other summer physics programs and that he still had been behind in the math portion of many physics classes. This made me feel much more unprepared about my math background, and the feeling only got worse when I remembered that everyone in the room had already taken a Calculus course years before.
I feel like everything is trying to push me away from physics; from the equations, the competition, and the overwhelming workload. Don’t get me wrong, I love physics and everything that it does to contribute to science and the world, but my interest only goes into the realm of the conceptual and astronomical and not too deeply into the mathematical. I definitely still want to try to major in physics in college but I think that it would be a good idea to start looking for backup majors. I think that this idea has been slowly creeping up on me for the past few days and today was the day where everything dawned on me.
After class, everyone in the program went to a presentation from the dean of undergraduate admissions in the main chemistry lecture hall. There he told us about the college admission process and the way in which the admission officers go about deciding whether or not to admit someone to the school. He also gave everyone a strategy to decide which college is the right choice for their particular interests, demands, and needs. This was the low point of my day because it was during the presentation where the dean told us to consider what we choose to do on our free time as a method to find out what your interests are. Everyone in my physics class told me that they liked to do differential equations, derivatives, and independent research. What made me feel terrible was the fact that none of the things that I do on my free time is physics related. I only made asides or references to physics to my friends when they don’t understand something, but I never conduct any actual research for fun. This was another slap in the face for me for wanting to do physics when everyone around me is clearly more dedicated and engaged than myself. I feel that it is time to do some soul searching to find out what I actually want to do with my future; I just hope that it’s not too late.
After everything was over for the night, I went with a few friends and residence councilors to watch the movie “Spaceballs” in Drexel Park. It was a much more enjoyable experience than everything else today. It was good to get away from academics and watch one of my favorite movies of all time in the park. It was like being free from worry until it was time to go back to the shackles of my academic confusion. Tomorrow we will go to Hersey Park to study roller-coasters, I hope that will reinforce my passion for physics, but we’ll find out.