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Annual Academic Retrospective

I’ve now spent a full a full academic year on a modern college campus, and it’s actually rather difficult to make statements as to whether it fit my expectations or not. Mostly because I didn’t have any.

On the other hand, I can speak to whether the job that I’ve been working concurrently with school has conformed to my expectations. In my two previous jobs, shelving books and writing articles, there was hardship in varying degrees, but it was enough to make me jaded such that, going into this new position, I knew the chance of growing to hate it to be quite real. But between having a super-flexible schedule, a work place consistently appearing on “Best Place to Work” lists, and an understanding boss, that hasn’t come to pass. There are days when I despise the task set before me, but that comes with the territory — and a lack of caffeine.

Probably the most pleasant surprise was in my dorm experience. On reflection, my room in the dorm (which, I’m told, was the building with the smallest rooms) is about the same size as my room here at home. Of course, I don’t have a roommate here, and I do have an accumulation of old crap that I’ve never bothered to round up and dispose of. On the other hand, in the dorm, without the old flotsam and with a roommate, there was a strong incentive to be deliberately minimalist and organized. That motivation and cleanliness made for a room that always had room for a pair of camp chairs to be set up for guests, with open floor space to spare.

As for my roommate himself, I could not have asked for a better one. In part, this is because he did spend so much time (and so many nights) elsewhere. However, when he was present, he was usually playing video games and slacking off right alongside me. He only had his laptop to play games on, so he was unfamiliar with the current generation of computer games, such as Team Fortress 2, EVE Online, or Company of Heroes. This meant that about once a month, he would ask about what I was playing with, I believe, genuine interest, and I would have the pleasure of getting to feel smart and explaining it all to him.

But in the end, we never really bonded. I’ll admit that I’m a rather private person, outside of my close friends, which he never became one of. For example, as I was walking back from an exam a few days ago, after a full year of sharing a room with this guy, I ran into him going the other way down the sidewalk. I was fully content to give him the standard “I recognize you” nod and keep going, but he spoke up to ask where I was coming from. I didn’t hesitate to tell him it was my Physics exam, and we exchanged a few words on the topic and then parted ways. But on some level, this interaction was still awkward: really any sort of conversation with him felt that way. Despite so much time in close proximity, he never became more than an a good acquaintance.

But really, the most interesting revelations happened outside the dorm. Probably most encouraging, if not wholly unexpected, is the lack of academic misconduct of the type documented by Evan Maloney and of interest to FIRE. I wish that I could claim a spotless record of this in my experience, but unfortunately, my math teacher chided America for its involvement in Iraq on the very last day of class.

There is also something to be said for the campus newspaper, whose faults I’ve tried to lay bare in these pages. It has been labeled by others as a way of padding English majors’ resumes, and there may be some truth to this. It is a soapbox on which stands a dubiously-representative cross-section of students. At best, the coverage is politically neutral and at worst, the columns devolve into left-leaning lectures.

But really, the goal of my criticism has been my way of trying to better it. Because, as forward-thinking and technology-loving as I may be, the Internet really can not at present compete with the newsstand piled a hundred high on the way in to the dining hall, free for all. The Internet is great for reaching a wider audience, but where your audience is, by definition, localized into a few square miles, dead-tree distribution does make some sense.

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Categories: Uncategorized
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  1. August 24, 2008 at 10:01 pm

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