Tackling University Challenges in Remote Sensing

Math is the bane of my existence.

I know it’s important. I know it applies to practically everything humanity has discovered. I know some people love and swear by it. It doesn’t matter. I still don’t want to have to touch it with a ten foot pole. As a kid, I spent many long hours in Dad’s office, tears pricking at the corners of my eyes as he explained fractions, or long division, or imaginary numbers. Tackling new mathematical concepts made me feel feverish and miserable. I rocked biology, adored the arts, went at geography with a will, yet math absolutely killed me at the end of every school day.

Because even writing about math is a grumpy thing, here is a happy hedgehog.
Because even reading about math is a grumpy thing, here is a happy hedgehog.

I passed all my math courses (the parents were firm on them being non-optional), and I rejoiced when I finished high school level calculus. No more math! I happily moved on with my education and flushed all the exponential information from my brain. And then university hit me like a ton of bricks. Having naively forgotten all my math concepts, I barely made it through Algebra. I think I failed my first two exams, and the overall grade was my most pathetic of all time. A hard pill to swallow for an otherwise straight-A student. But I did make it. And at the end of that course, I celebrated twice as hard as I had for calculus. I forgot everything again directly afterwards, like an idiot. I mean, this had to be the last uni level math course I’d have to take, right? I’m going into the arts, not science. It couldn’t happen again.

Well, guess what.

I’m taking Remote Sensing 101 right now, and I’m poking through old math textbooks, trying to remember all over again. Remote Sensing is on my list of core courses for my bachelor’s in Geography. It’s actually a fascinating course, all about satellites and gathering information from electromagnetic radiation. The course summary made it look like a breeze. I walked into my first class feeling confident, interested, and ready for the semester. I walked out of my first class in shock. Physics, geometry, advanced algebra – it’s been years since I’ve taken these courses at the high school level. I’m an artist. A musician. An adventurer. Math and physics aren’t my passions. Why would I pursue them if I know they aren’t my loves?

I went to my first lab, and came away from that in tears. Again, with the complex concepts I’ve forgotten, and worse: entirely new computer science programs to learn on Windows machines. I can’t stand Windows. They’re stone age computers, obnoxiously and cheaply designed (generally). Nothing is where it should be, nothing runs the way it’s supposed to, everything is as slow as molasses, and the hard drive on my lab machine was glitchy. The icing on the cake.

Fun entry-level stuff.
I’m starting to get the hang of this, but you can see how it could overwhelm on day 1.

Could I drop the course? I checked, and double checked. No, I couldn’t. It’s this or statistics, and heck-to-the-no-thank-you-very-much. Ha. 

There’s something to be said for knuckling down and doing hard things. It builds character. It shows that you can take a challenge. It helps build confidence in your abilities. It also kind of sucks. I spent the past three weeks studying my Remote Sensing textbook, taking notes, doing flashcards, and tackling exponential equations. It’s been at least two hours of studying per day, on top of my already jam-packed schedule.

But today, I handed in my perfect lab assignment, and found out that I got an A on my first exam.

Tonight, I celebrate. And tomorrow, I’m back to the books. I’m going to rock this course, even if I don’t like it! 

3 Replies to “Tackling University Challenges in Remote Sensing”

  1. This makes me a proud mama… and for the record, i don’t care about the grades you get, only that you have the grit and determination to do hard things and do your best at them. Math does apply to every single thing, even art and music (especially art and music?) I was proud of you when you conquered long division. I was proud of you when you did every single bit of extra credit to haul your ass through barely passing your first uni algebra class, and I’m proud of you now. We “made” you do a lot of stuff as kids… from math to gritting your teeth through Laos and Cambodia during monsoon with wet bags, long bus rides, and bowls of noodles with ants floating in them for dinner… do you REMEMBER that night and day… ugh. We made you do that for exactly this reason: so you’d have perspective on remote sensing and know how to get the job done. The one thing I hope you took away from your weird educational method is that you can do the hard things. Grit and determination. Those are what success looks like, not brilliance in all things. Keep going, my girl.

  2. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I need to do more hard, uncomfortable things.

  3. […] Tackling University Challenges in Remote Sensing by Hannah Miller […]

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