An epic economics study group

By April Xiaoyi Xu
By April Xiaoyi Xu |

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April studying Economics at the Quantitative Skills Center, Pomona College

9.00pm. As the minute hand was set to rejoin the number “12” on my watch, I found myself speeding up on my way from the Quantitative Skills Center (QSC) to Carnegie Hall. I was in between my maths appointment with a QSC tutor and my macroeconomics principles study group session, which goes from 9.00pm till 10.30pm on Tuesdays on voluntary basis.

The night sky looked beautiful, as always. Coming from Beijing, where the notorious air contamination has long deprived us of a view of a starry sky, I love to watch the night sky while thinking about random aspects of my life. 

Tuesday nights do not usually leave too much time for this sort of reflection. In between the two study sessions, my job was to quickly shift my thinking mode from maths to economics.

As I approached Carnegie Hall (a very classy building that is home to some social sciences departments), I found some other students walking into the building. 

A few minutes later, Professor Manisha Goel stepped in too. In addition to holding office hours and ad-hoc appointments, Professor Goel generously dedicates her Tuesday evenings to the study group sessions. While she encourages her students to discuss problems in groups and try to answer each other’s questions, she is also present to provide expert knowledge. 

The way our ECON051 (macroeconomics principles) class is organised, we have either an assignment or a quiz (with the exception of the two mid-term sessions) every Wednesday. During each class, we also have a short discussion that is usually focused on specific articles that we have read in relation to the topics that we have been covering. 

October 28 was a particularly memorable Tuesday. The assignment for that week was especially challenging, with questions on the permanent income hypothesis and questions on Vietnam, Greece, and even a hypothetical utopia. I came into the classroom with my third draft for this assignment. 

Previously, I enjoyed studying in an informal study group with two friends over the weekend, and had been reworking and reconsidering several questions. For Tuesday night, I had prepared six questions. Although the environment was definitely collaborative, I could sense that everyone was stressed. The air felt intense, not without a tinge of anxiety. 

I left the session at around 10.40pm, but heard that Professor Goel and many of my classmates kept working in the study group until midnight. From around 5.00am the next day, she had already got up to answer emails. From 9:00 till lunch time, she tirelessly continued her office hours, and from 1.15 until 4.00pm, she taught two 75-minute Economics classes that were scheduled almost back to back. 

Wow. That meant more than 12 hours of teaching / responding to questions, if we subtract the hours of insufficient rest!

I can still clearly recall her jokingly saying, “I have to do it [the assignment] 50 times. You only do it once. I woke up this morning thinking about the problems, and then realised, oh, you need to work on it, not me!”.

Although I did the assignment more than a couple of times with edits each time, I could definitely sympathise with her situation, and have been deeply moved by Professor Goel’s dedication and patience. 

“You still have the energy to think about my questions!” Professor Goel would say, impressed at the consistent responses to her in-class questions even after such an intense study period. She sympathise with our situation too. 

Yes, the academics here can be very intense, but I am extremely grateful for the amount of support that we receive as students of Pomona College.