My Fourth Year of University

This is the last yearly reflections article featuring me as a college undergrad, because of course I finally managed to graduate. This was actually my fifth year as an undergrad (due to co-op), but since I took fourth year courses then technically I was a fourth year student. During the past year I spent two terms in school and only one term on co-op, which is in contrast to my last two years where I spent eight months on co-op and only four months in school. This means there’ll be more stuff on my courses and less on my work, but either way it won’t be too exciting. If you still want to find out what I’ve been up to in the last year, keep on reading.

Last year at this time I was on my last co-op term, still working in the small branch office of a large technology company. I was glad I signed up for eight months with the company. The job was fairly challenging, and the pay was good. And with the economic downturn last year, it would have been hard for me to find another co-op position. Anyways, during my first term with the company I primary did scripting and programming tasks. On the second term I still did some scripting, but I was also responsible for doing hardware testing. Hardware testing involved probing various signals on a circuit board with an oscilloscope, and to do that we needed to solder wires onto tiny little pins on the boards. Soldering, in principle, is a pretty straight-forward task, but it’s not nearly that straight forward when you are working with tiny components. Simply put, soldering electronic components has been a frustrating experience. At the beginning, it took me literally hours to solder on one wire, and then the wires have a penchant for falling off. I also accidentally short circuited pins numerous time and had trouble clearing the shorts. I did get better at soldering by the end of my work term, but I think I hold the dubious record of most test boards killed by bad soldering (in a given amount of time). I don’t think any of my test boards died because they were bad to begin with.

While the work had been a mixed experience, the other aspects of my co-op term were pretty good. Employees at the company had access to the building’s fitness room, and I took full advantage of it, working out five days a week. There were also some company events, including playing pitch and putt. I played pretty well in the previous company event which was curling, but this time I absolutely sucked. Golf and golf-like sports are much tougher than they look. I was dead last in my group, even though the others in my group weren’t that great either. Overall, my last two co-op terms have been pretty good. I learned a fair bit of stuff, met some people, and decided that the semiconductor industry isn’t for me. I also saved up a little bit more money for graduate school. Speaking of graduate school, I started my quest towards finding a grad school during my last co-op term by taking the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). My experience with the GRE is documented in this article, but in short I got the job done.

Having finished my five terms of co-op, I returned to school in the fall as an official fourth year student. Some people said that the fourth year (or the graduating year) is the toughest year of undergrad, but I found myself looking at the lightest course load of my university career. I took five courses, but thanks to some fiddling around, I managed to fit all of my lectures into two days. I didn’t have three weekdays off though because I was doing a project for a professor, and I went back to school on two of my “off” days to work on the project. Still, I had a very flexible schedule and my courses weren’t that difficult either. Fourth year courses were narrower in scope than third year courses, but material and computational-wise they weren’t that much harder. Maybe it was just the courses I took though.

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