Another day full of Contracts: 3.5 hours with the study group, and another 4 hours or so on my own, outlining. I’m really starting to get scared, though not necessarily about my own capabilities when it comes to the exam. No, I am outright terrified of my classmates.
Michigan has been, in many ways, an incredibly rewarding surprise. In terms of average intellectual ability, the level here is higher than in any other environment, academic or otherwise, I’ve ever been a part of. That makes class discussions (at least when the professor knows how to harness all that mental energy) both a lot of fun and enlightening. I’ve had more moments in which a classmate has brought up a point or interpretation that I had never considered in just this semester than I’ve had in the rest of my academic career combined.
It’s made everything a lot more intellectually engaging than most other environments, but it also produces situations like today: all of a sudden I’m uncomfortably aware of how much the brilliance of my fellow classmates (and especially my study group) is going to hurt me when it comes to exams. One of the wonderful things about the humanities is a complete lack of hard grading curves, and thereby a distinct absence of a need to even contemplate what your colleagues are doing. Now, though, I’m in direct competition with all of the incredibly intelligent people I love to listen to. A couple of my friends are going to completely destroy the curve with their undoubtedly excellent exams, and I’m already feeling like I don’t measure up.
There’s not much I can do aside from “the best that I can,” and I’m honestly not that stressed or anxious about it, but I can see why, in other environments, other people might resort to dirty tactics. The fear of falling short can be intense.