Stuttering in College Part 5

Back to reviewing my college experience. If you want to check out the first few parts, here are the links.

Before College

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

That covers things up to my sophomore year.

During freshman year, I had taken a University Honors College course in chemistry. And done poorly. Well, a B- anyway. Second semester I took regular chemistry. For whatever reason, I was determined to make this Honors College thing work. So for my sophomore year, I took an Honors physics course. Horrible, horrible idea.

This wasn’t some extension of high school physics. This was a deep dive into theory and fast paced. The guy who taught it had founded the Honors College. And here I was, lost in a class of more than a hundred students without anybody to go to for help. I had a pretty solid outing, but ended up getting Cs both semesters. The medical school dream was starting to wither away. A horrid showing in organic chemistry (and its lab) sort of sealed the deal. By the end of that first term, I was searching around for something else.

Since my dad had an engineering degree, he thought I should give that a go. So I signed up for some of the introductory engineering courses. Stuff like basic computer science and engineering analysis — lab stuff. Turns out that if you stutter, you really don’t like talking to people and finding out the exact course to take. I can figure this out on my own!

When I applied for graduation two years later, I found out that I had taken the introduction to computer science course — for computer science majors. That pretty much explained why it was so bloody difficult. I was told that there was a more basic one that all the engineering students took. Right. And remember, if you’re doing poorly in a course, it’s not somebody else’s fault — it’s yours. So figure it out!

My rampant foray into academic mediocrity aside, I was making great progress at the newspaper, though. I was still taking photos, writing the occasional news article, and doing sports as well. All of my friends were at the paper, and none were in whatever major I thought I was in. I spent a lot of hours there. That would definitely explain the deteriorating grades.

While I can’t remember a specific stuttering story from sophomore year, I think the transition from pre-med to engineering is a great example of how my stutter got in the way. I could have sat down and had a long conversation with a counselor, or professor, or fellow student on what courses to take. And in what order. But I didn’t. I did it the hard way. And I never did have that conversation! I was under the impression that I’m in college, so I should be able to figure stuff out on my own. Well, not really. There’s plenty of support systems out there, you just have to ask.

However, I don’t want any of you to think that I acted entirely in a vacuum. Oh no. You did have to have a sign-off from your counselor on courses. The one assigned to me was a really nice professor, but he was also very busy. And I don’t think he knew the exact order to take courses in. Or that some should be taken before others or whatever. For the entire time at Pitt, whenever I visited any professor (very rarely, mind you) I always felt like I was bothering them, that I was taking up their valuable time. That my stutter would drag things out, and things would just take way longer than they should. I felt the same about e-mails. I thought they’d think to themselves — ‘why can’t this guy figure it out on his own? He’s in college!’

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