Day One: Very Mixed Feelings
Well. Um. That was Day One, then.
Academically, nothing much happens on the first day of the semester. Syllabuses (the built-in WordPress type-as-you-go spell checker insists that this is correct and syllabi isn’t, though, oddly, it doesn’t recognize “WordPress” either) are handed out, instructors make their preferences known as regards classroom conduct and the like, and… that’s basically all they have time for. As a student, you get lost a lot, particularly if it’s the beginning of your freshman year. You bumble around looking for rooms, building entrances, in my case elevators.
In those respects, then, today was entirely typical (with one exception to the bumbling-around which I’ll get to in a moment). In others, not so much.
For starters, the temperature here in northern Maine today was somewhere just shy of 100° F, with a humidity that (for whatever reason) felt a lot higher than the indicated 31%. For those of you who are not materials scientists, 100° F is just barely not hot enough to melt lead.* This meant that I arrived at each and every one of my several destinations on campus today in a full comedy flop sweat, which only abated 10 or 15 minutes after entering the building – except in my first class, where the lecture hall was not air conditioned and the flop sweat abatement never happened at all.
OTOH, parking was not as horrible as I was afraid it would be. There’s a lot with a nice row of handicapped spaces right near the building where my last class of the morning is, meaning that I can park up there and make a nice big triangle, with the least distance to cover at the end. Not as good on lab day, I admit, but I can always go to lunch and then snout around for a better parking space when I get back for the afternoon stuff. On Friday, when I have only morning classes, this will do nicely.
I’ve met all but two of my instructors, and one of them is teaching an online class, so I’m probably not actually expected to meet him in person. I obtained permission from my chemistry instructor to use my smartpen in the lectures despite the syllabus-specified ban on recording devices, with the understanding that I will not use the recordings for evil. (She doesn’t want to end up being mocked on YouTube, which I can fully understand.) I had a quick meeting with my advisor, to let him know that I was in fact in a math class after all and that all appeared to be well. (WP’s spell checker doesn’t know advisor either. It thinks I should use adviser. That is, to use a technical term, wack.)
So I’ve accomplished a few things today. I made the interesting discovery that the Memorial Union has a food court in it these days. Last time I was there, there was one of those Taco Bell Express carts and… that was about it. There’s a smaller one over in the Wells Center, at the other end of the Mall, which is nice because that’s much closer to where I’ll be at the beginning of lunchtime on days when I don’t need to go to the bookstore (which is also in the Union) and get a book that I missed the first time. And I learned a few important lessons, such as:
1) I don’t care what Mom says, I do too need a canteen.
2) And I probably ought to carry a towel as well, because, damn.
All in all, then, not a bad day. And yet, in any quiet moment, and on most of the drive home, and since I’ve arrived, my emotions have been very mixed and variable. I had a massive mood crash an hour or so ago in which I came to the conclusion that this whole thing is an enormous mistake. There were many points during the day today at which I felt a greater sense of not belonging than I have in a good long time. And why did I choose a technical discipline again? I’m like a dog running into a screen door.
I’m really not sure what I feel right now. A lot of it is just that I spent the day hot and sweaty and arrived home feeling grubby and miserable and tired. And that I had many moments in which I felt (and probably was) conspicuous and absurd, imagined the people around me wondering what the hell I was doing there, and not having any clear idea myself of the answer. And I haven’t even done any actual coursework yet.
Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe it’ll all make more sense when I’m actually working, as opposed to slumping around a roasting-hot campus figuring out where rooms are and wondering every few minutes why the publishers of Burge’s Chemistry, Second Edition felt compelled to make the covers out of (based on the volume’s weight and price) gold.
The high point of the day came when I ran into a group of students looking bewildered in the hall on the third floor of Boardman Hall and realized that they were in my ECE seminar. The reason I knew that was because I had scouted the room for said seminar the previous week and knew it was in a strange place. My classmates were standing in the hall between rooms 309 and 311 looking puzzled and bereft.
“You guys are looking for 310, aren’t you?” I asked.
“Yeah, do you know where it is?” asked one of my classmates, who bore a startling resemblance to my friend Eric Reuss.
“Go down to – … follow me, it’s easier,” I said, and led the way down the hall, around a corner that, from the hallway, looks like it just leads to the stairwell, down a semi-hidden side hall, past several rooms not anywhere near 310 in the sequence, and to a pair of double doors marked “310”.
Where we found a sign that said, “ECE 100 MOVED TO ESRB (BARROWS 165)”.
So much for my moment of glory. It’s a long slog to Barrows 165 (which is also nowhere near where you think it should be based on the numbers you see when you first enter the building) from the third floor of Boardman. By the time we got there, my younger, fitter classmates had left me far behind (Not Eric Reuss paused at the top of the stairs leading down to the ESRB wing to give me a jaunty “this way, in your own time!” sort of wave) and I was in such an advanced state of sweatiness that Prof. Musavi asked concernedly if I was all right when I flopped into the lecture hall and dragged myself to a seat. (The seats in Barrows 165 are armless desk chairs of the sort office supply catalogs call “task chairs”. I think the one I sat in has a permanent sweaty assprint on its cheap fabric upholstery now.)
Tomorrow’s not going to be much better on the not-much-work-to-do front or the alienation one; I have only one class, but it’s the chemistry lab, and we’re going to spend the semester’s first lab period taking something called the Toledo Chemistry Placement Exam. I would have thought that after the class begins was the wrong time to be giving placement exams, but that’s why I don’t run a university, I suppose. Either way, it’s another opportunity to feel utterly unprepared and out of my depth, and I’m not looking forward to it.
On the plus side, I did get to read through the lab manual this evening, and it had many satisfying references to the safety showers and what to do if you set yourself on fire. Nothing like a whiff of potential disaster to spice up an academic experience, I always say!
(* For values of “just barely” that include “531.43° F”.)