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I Failed My First Calculus Test

Updated: Mar 13, 2021


I vividly remember my first day of classes as a university student. A great mix of butterflies, excitement, and snacks was involved. Getting into a university, here, to me meant the American Dream. One which so many of us believe in, thinking that maybe it will give us everything we never had. Now don't get me wrong, this, of course, coming with a huge grain of salt that defines reality.


My first ever university class was Calculus 1. To that point in my life, I have never studied in English, everything I ever learned was in Hungarian. To obtain an extra boost for the day, I slipped on my pink Nike sneakers to go with my flowery dress. I have never felt that stupid. Everything seemed to be moving by quickly, as my professor was talking, and I was scrambling into my notebook to make sense of theorems, definitions, and dots rather than commas. I was taking notes, focusing on understanding an accent, and feeling impossibly small in this classroom of 45.


As the first week passed, I was determined to make the most out of my determination, and passion. Throughout my life, not many things have come easy when it came to academics. I was not one of those students who just listened and knew it all. I spent the hours and extra work it took that got me where I am today. However, math was always my safe space, it was the source of calmness in any day of stress. As much as this sentence will awaken a lot of anger in many of my fellow youth, I have always loved math. It just made sense.


That was until I was taught in a way I never have before. I was accustomed to a different education system, where the idea of multiple choice for a test would be laughed upon. Where in math the answer barely mattered in comparison to the ideas, ways, and steps used in obtaining that answer. I failed my first Calculus test.


When I was preparing to come to University, this idea would have been the nightmare case scenario. Failing aligned with the constant fear of not being enough, that after everything that it took to get there, I won't be enough here. When the pool changes, I will no more be a competitor in this world.


Being a University student, in engineering is challenging as is. Therefore, when asked about how I did on the test, I was shocked to find my fellow classmates not only alter their behavior toward me but begin looking down on me and my achievements. I have always been used to the sea of stares when walking into engineering classes. Wearing high heels, tulle skirts and another endless list of (to me) fun outfits is often surprising to many. However, now the stares were for a different reason and a very wrong reason. I felt even tinier than before, sitting in my seat I felt lost, and like I would never make it.


We all listen to others talk about how such instances won't matter in the grand scheme of life. However, at that moment, it's never reality or perspective that wins our view over. As humans, we give in to our doubts, wrongful noises, and ideas of failure.


It mattered.


However, for a sea of different reasons. I still think about this particular failure, never to demotivate myself, or to make myself feel small. Rather stay on track, motivated, and remind me that failure is an essential part of who I am. If it weren't for all those instances of failure, I would have never learned to stay persistent, motivated as well as stay in my lane. Other's stares can teach you a thing or two about how they are. Humanity is not a fan of highlighting failures, leading to a false reality of patterns. We don't often write lengthy social media posts, stories, or even books about our failures. However, with this experience came a great understanding of how some can feel just as lost as I am. Making me determined to never be the reason someone might approach such feelings and ideas.


If you are a student, you will fail, maybe not often, maybe even often. However, that will never make you any less than your peers. I know, that at that moment no words as such will help, but trust me that time will. That doesn't mean I am telling you to disregard it, as it can teach you a lot, about yourself, and even others. But not in ways you might predict. It is not a showcase of you being a failure, it is only a showcase of a part of your experience. I can only hope that with time you will share your stories of failure with other students, as I wish others would have done for me!


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