Salute to Spouses Blog

We're excited to be blogging about the latest topics in military life. We want to keep you informed on topics such as current events, education, career advice, etc. Feel free to post comments or questions to any of our entries.
Sweet Mother Mary what have I gotten myself into?

By Amy Nielsen

Week three of my master’s of science degree program and I have hit the “Oh sweet Mary Mother of all that is holy, what on Earth have I gotten myself into?” phase of freshman life.

Between the crash course in online scholarly research and APA citations, coordinating all of the class syllabi dates with my already busy life, and an organic chemistry professor who prefers the shotgun method of online instruction – I might just lose my ever-loving mind.

Week one went something like this - “Where are my classes and how do I know what to learn?”

Lucky for me my husband is also in school and his program uses the same online platform so I had

some inside help working through the technology curve. It was steep, and I almost missed a whole class

that ends mid trimester because I wasn’t familiar enough with the platform. But I succeeded and made

it through.

Week two was a total blur. We had a previously scheduled vacation in a state far from home with family

I love dearly. I pushed through to make sure I got all of my assignments in. What I lost was the

time I needed to comprehend some of the more challenging classes. I decided to take the entire weekend off to spend with my family, and it was a mistake. I should have put a little time into my studies each day. Now, I am far behind the eight ball and I will pay for it.

This past week everything ramped up. We are no longer new students to be handled with kid gloves. We

are master’s degree candidates with, in some cases, years of professional experience behind us. Step up to the plate, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to start playing ball. There was a noticeable jump in the amount of material covered, the length of assignments, the depth of research required, and the degree of professionalism expected.

The added work load coupled with the pressure cooker of my personal experiences on vacation turned

this past week into pure and unadulterated hell. Time management went out the window and

everything sat on top of me like a ton of bricks. It seemed like every task I completed for one class

generated three more. My organic chemistry professor decided that now would be a great time to

introduce naming hydrocarbon compounds. Meanwhile, another class called Perspectives in Complementary and Integrative Medicine we were introduced to our dreaded group project team members, and only one other person in my group can write intelligibly. Shoot me now.

This says nothing about the other things I am juggling in my life - homeschooling our daughters and

preparing for the classes I am offering through the business I am trying to build. Not to mention

somewhere in there I would like to see my friends and maybe have a bit of fun. Did someone say relax?


I ran myself into a studying stupor this week. When I started in on the chemistry homework early in the

Week, and realized that I didn’t even understand the words in the question, I knew I was going to be in

trouble. I spent half a day finding a program and compiling a playlist of tutorials to cover what had

been covered in the course so far. I set myself up to binge watch organic chemistry. How’s that for a

blazingly fun Sunday? It took me three days to get caught up enough to follow the video lecture presented by my actual professor.

Did I mention my organic chemistry professor likes the shot gun approach to learning? He posts seven

different sources of materials and says, take six pages from here, these hundred pages in the text


book, this video, these two power point presentations, and these nine pages of single paced notes and

go teach yourself organic chemistry.

We are in week three and we have read 377 pages of the 900 page textbook already. We have 16 weeks of class. At this rate we will be done with the text book in the next two weeks. I wish to publically thank Sal Khan for providing me with my organic chemistry lifeboat.

My favorite class so far is of course the shortest at only one and a half credits and it only meets for seven weeks:  Perspectives in Complimentary and Integrative Health. It is is turning out to be a really interesting discussion class. We will have the team paper to present for peer review at the end of it, which means collaborative writing, but I come from the world of theater design. If I can do art by committee, I can certainly do health policy by committee.

I had a slight panic late last night when I couldn’t remember if I had even opened my physiology module

this week. I snuck down to check at 3 a.m., and lo and behold I had completed all of the assignments

on Monday. I don’t even remember doing them, but I even wrote a 300-word essay on tight

junction function which reads remarkably well if I do say so myself.

What this insane time is helping me to realize is that I am capable. I can fail at something and still be

able to move forward knowing that the understanding will come with time and practice. That in the

cracks of time between the panic of everything there is peace. With attention to detail, repetition, and

perseverance I will make it through this program.

I am sure it will get harder than this. I am sure I will actually fail an assignment. I am also very sure I will receive my degree in August of 2019 - unless organic chemistry kills me first.

For Military Spouses
Apply for the Salute to Spouses scholarship today and begin your education! You’ll be on the way to your dream career.

Salute to Spouses Scholarship Recipients