Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The "Actual" Beginning

It was only one day in and I had already locked myself out of my room.  All I wanted to do was brush my teeth before I went off into the world. Was that so wrong? I distinctly remember the way my heart dropped as I heard the door click closed and my insides screamed "NOOO!" the second I realized that I had forgotten my ID card. 

What a great way to start off the day!

Fortunately, I somehow managed to get locked out at the best possible time when I didn't need my ID card to get into breakfast and didn't have anywhere to go before someone was available to open my room for me. I hadn't originally anticipated forgetting my ID card in my room to be such a big deal or responsibility and yet, here I was, inconvenienced because I had neglected to keep track of something so small. Although I'd like to believe that this isn't a completely accurate representation of myself, I also can't help but wonder how much of a part small things and decisions like that will actually play in college. 

For the last 16 years, I've become so comfortable with doing things and knowing that my parents had my back or could remind me about all of the things I could have possibly forgotten, which is a lot of things because I have a terrible memory. In general, I just really missed my parents, their home-cooked meals, their hugs, and their care. I missed not having to watch out for myself.
I woke up a little too early than I should have and ended up sleeping an extra thirty minutes on my bed directly after I took a shower before attempting to brush my teeth in peace (which clearly turned out disastrous).

Breakfast was really good, especially when stacked up against the expectations of the movie-version college cafeteria food aesthetic. I talked with Mariana, an amazingly sweet girl originally from Mexico attending boarding school in Switzerland, and with Jung-Hee, a South Korean New Yorker who was just as sweet and went to a boarding school in New York. Although both decided to take their classes on a whim, they were incredibly down to Earth and we seemed to get along really well together. 

 As a typical family dinner (and breakfast) eater, it felt so odd to be eating with new people and seeing so many new faces that early in the morning but it also ended terribly quickly so that we could be seated for orientation. Orientation was as painless as I had hoped it would be and I received my class schedule for the day from my R.A. in a fancy-looking folder before rushing off to my first building of the day. This was how I expected college to be: crazy but predictable.

Mr. Roger Mesznik was my lovely professor for the morning session and started us off with a discussion on word origins and how James Cook and his fellow sailors got vitamin C. The point of it all, I believe, was meant to stress the importance of asking clarifying questions frequently in order to grow our knowledge. I found it to be an unusual start to a three-week program but appreciated Mr. (or Dr?) Mesznik's lightheartedness and willingness to stimulate curiosity through his own means. And despite not having discussed anything pertaining directly to business or economics within the first 15 minutes of class, I still felt that it was productive. 

Something to chew on.
The remains of the two hours after the word origin and vitamin talk was left to chew on the current economic situation in Greece and the various factors that contributed to its never-ending list of problems or the possible solutions that could be proposed. I felt a little disengaged during this part, in spite of being able to fully understand everything that was being said when it was being said, chiefly because I was not very clued into the details of Greece's situation and didn't have any immediate personal investment in it either. That being said, I respected the way Dr. Mesznik was able to control the conversation so expertly and looked forward to having more classes with him. (He also had an awesome accent). 

My class (Intro to Business, Economics, and Finance), in specific, was exceptionally large, consisting of around 140 people. By the afternoon session we had all been split up into smaller groups of around 15-20 people for 7 or so different teachers. I strongly preferred the afternoon session setting just because I liked the more direct interaction with other students as opposed to the bigger setting like the one in the morning. Before coming to Columbia, I figured that my class would be around 40 people, not realizing that it could be on both ends of the spectrum in one day. 

During lunch, I met Kevin, currently taking Introduction to Creative Writing, and realized that his class was much smaller than mine but still just as interesting. We chatted in the line on the way to grabbing food but didn't chat very much more afterwards once he went to go find a seat. We were going to sit together but I couldn't find him once I had gotten my food (and I felt incredibly bad about it too). And in a summer program of around 1,100, I suddenly became aware of how difficult it was to find people without any extra help. (Thank you technology!) Instead, I sat with two commuters and incoming freshman taking Physics. It was refreshing to hear even younger people discussing the buzz of excitement for the beginning of high-school again and it brought back nostalgic memories and a sad recognition of how fast the past three years had gone by. I told them to cherish their high-school years as I had tried my hardest to do mine but that, as someone once told me, everything would go by so fast that if they blinked they would miss it. 

I'm not even a senior yet and I know I blinked. 
Time waits for no one.
The afternoon session was led by Ms. Melissa Santos, an engineering-based graduate student. After getting lost in the building trying to find the room, I sat next to Brian and Jason from New York and North Carolina, respectively. Class was spent considering the basics of economics in terms of what it actually was and what it involved. We touched on supply and demand, opportunity costs, and the production possibility frontier (PFF). And although there was quite a bit more information that required more attention, I found myself more engaged, and happy that I was taking structured notes off of a Prezi presentation. 

In terms of academic rigor, it's difficult to gauge how challenging the course is based solely on data from the first day but it seemed like a manageable workload. The most difficult thing I encountered was a diagnostics quiz in the afternoon session of my class at the very end where it tested my math skills from around two or three years ago. It didn't pan out very well but I didn't think it would anyways. 

I have a strange affinity for blurry photos.
In the same way, I also feel like its difficult to analyze how I feel about Columbia at this point. The college experience is so new and so wild and weird. And at the same time, I'm not exactly sure how Columbia in specific plays a role into all this and how my experience would change if it was another school. The campus was actually much smaller than I had anticipated, beautiful, but much smaller. Because of this, I felt myself hanging out in the same areas and visiting the same places because of convenience or habit. 

After class, I decided to research some R.A. trips before going down to eat a quick dinner and then hang out in Times Square with Izabel, Alyanna, and Mark. Leaving the campus was exhilarating and exhausting at the same time because the day had felt so full already and I found myself falling asleep on the ride back. 

Upon my return, I was determined to blog early and go to sleep early but all my plans went down the drain because of an extremely interesting conversation with my Taiwanese next-door neighbor from Long Island, Tiara. (And I wouldn't have it any other way.) After a long debate on the potential homework for our class we moved onto other more personal topics and engaged in a snowball conversation that just kept picking up more and more speed and momentum until one of us checked the clock and realized how late it was. I'm sure I'll regret that decision in the morning when I have to wake up early to take a shower but for now I'll just be happy that I made another friend. 

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