I usually pride myself on being a timely person. So, naturally, the fact that I haven’t written anything on this blog in over a month makes me want to hide under a shame cube.
I could make excuses. I could tell you about all of the things I’ve been doing at college that have been keeping me too busy to write. But I won’t indulge in that sort of self-validation, because, frankly, you don’t care, and none of us buy it.
I will, however, talk about all the things that have been keeping me busy, independent of self-indulgence. After all, what else could I possibly write about? I’m no good at fiction. So that leaves me, leaves us… here.
Now, of course, I came to college first and foremost to get an education, so I should probably tell you about my classes:
Humanities: This class is titled “Human Being and Citizen” and fulfills a core requirement. It’s basically a glorified literature class, plus some common themes of human nature and what it means to be a good person and/or good citizen. I will take this one for the rest of the year.
I really enjoyed English classes in high school, mostly because I had really amazing teachers and really thought-provoking discussions with my classmates. I always left class with a better understanding of the text than when I entered. Somehow, I expected college classes to offer the same kind of stimulating experience, but I’ve been severely disappointed in my Hum class so far. My professor, for starters, didn’t seem to add much to our discussion of the Iliad (for the first two weeks my friends and I were convinced she hadn’t read it before), and imposed a culture of hand-raising on the classroom.
Now, as a child of the Academy, where we had twelve to sixteen students in a class, I’ve been spoiled by fast-paced discussion classes. Naturally, I find that hand raising disrupts the flow of conversation and creates a natural hierarchy – favorites get called on more often and have a greater opportunity to steer a conversation. One of my biggest pet peeves with my Hum professor is that she always looks to her left and calls on people on one side of the table. I, of course, sit to her right, because I’m not a That Kid, and I often find myself waving my hand around halfheartedly for minutes at a time before I’m allowed to get a word in edgewise.
Furthermore, there are a few That Kids in my class. You know the one. The one who always talks but never says anything. The one whose voice you can mimic perfectly. The one who’s used to being the smartest in every class and makes his own point without listening to what his classmates have to say. And more than one makes for some serious angst amongst those of us who care more about learning than about our participation grades. I’ve adapted to my new classroom culture, and I always make some of the best points of the discussion, but it’s still frustrating; I don’t think I’m getting nearly as much out of discussion as I possibly could. I don’t love literature class like I once did, and I hope I have some better experiences with it further along in my college career.
Math: This is the third quarter of the standard calculus sequence. It’s proof-based, which I really don’t enjoy or understand. My professor’s curve strategy is pretty obtuse (I’m sorry I really really didn’t intend the pun I promise it was just the best word I promise) so I won’t know my grade until the end of the quarter. As long as it doesn’t wreck my GPA, I should be fine – at least I only have to put up with this for a quarter.
The only amusing thing about math is my professor – he’s tiny and looks like a squishy panda and also I wouldn’t be surprised if he revealed himself to be fifteen years old. He can also be a bit sassy. When all is said and done, he does about as good a job with the material as I could expect anyone to do (that is, I wouldn’t understand it if someone else was teaching it either) so I don’t have any deep-rooted resentment towards the class. We did, however, have twenty-seven problems to turn in this week.
Social Sciences: This is actually my jam. The course is officially titled “Power, Identity, and Resistance” and deals mostly with political and economic theory. We started out with Aristotle’s Politics, moved on to Wealth of Nations and are currently working on Capital. I’m fortunate to have a really fantastic professor for this class; on top of that, I really like the material in and of itself. So far I’ve learned that Adam Smith isn’t really as much of a gung-ho advocate of limitless greed as people seem to think, and that Marx and Smith get a lot of their ideas from the same origins – they just take them in somewhat different directions. I’ll be interested to see how the class progresses, but I’m really enjoying it as a foundation class for my general areas of study (tentatively Econ, with a possible double major in public policy or international studies).
I also really enjoy writing philosophy papers, so this class is making me miss the philosophy elective I took during the first semester of my senior year at the Academy: International Affairs and Ethics. I had one of the most amazing teachers of all time for that class, and it was probably my favorite class of all time. He would make us think in completely new ways about issues I’d familiarized myself with before; what’s more, he would make it feel like those ways of thinking were exactly how our brains were supposed to work. I got a lot better at evaluating arguments because of that class, and I give that teacher substantial credit for developing my skills in writing social science papers. I haven’t gotten my first essay back for Sosc yet, but I’m hoping I did well (obviously).
French: This is probably the only class that I’m enjoying more in college than I did in high school. I’m in a pretty high level (the next course after two full years of language study – it’s designed to perfect your writing skills before you start literature classes for the major) and my teacher is really fantastic. I learn a lot and understand the language in a more nuanced way every time I go to class. I write a lot for French – generally upwards of a thousand words per week – but it doesn’t feel like much because the work is interesting and I feel like I’m getting a lot out of it. I’ll only need to take five quarters of literature classes to pick up a minor in French, so I think I’ll probably end up doing that.
I’ll need to continue my study of French anyway if I want to do the Civilization program in Paris. This is a one-quarter program where you get your entire Civ requirement (essentially a history class) out of the way in one go. Plus, I’d get to be in Paris. I think this is the only city I might end up loving as much as New York. The intersection of modernistic sophistication and continental history made me fall in love with the city when I first visited, and I can’t wait to spend more time there. And the cheese. Oh, lord, the cheese.
So we only take four classes per quarter, but each takes up a lot of time in and out of class. Of course, I like to keep myself even busier than is necessary and/or humane, so I fill the time when I’m not working with a bunch of different registered student organizations and other extracurriculars.
For starters, I’m on my Hall Council, so I help plan events within my residence hall that involve all four of the houses. We do movie nights every couple of weeks, and last week we hosted a Halloween study break with a pumpkin-carving contest, costume contest, and snack contest. Two kids from my house won the costume contest dressed as Dwight and Angela from The Office. They were adorable. I love my house.
I’m also writing and copy editing for a political magazine, so I pick up an article every week and get to analyze different political issues every time. It’s a pretty new publication so the editorial process is pretty relaxed. This is good in that I pretty much get my first-choice article every time I show up to the pitch meeting, but it also means that the editing pipeline gets a little slow. I was a little peeved when I had an article on the shutdown all ready to go, got an e-mail from the editor-in-chief saying that my article would get published within 24 hours, and then the shutdown ended within 9. I’d written the article a week prior, and everything I predicted happened, but the article became irrelevant because the board didn’t understand how time-sensitive the piece was. Nevertheless, I really love writing for the magazine, and I’ve gotten to learn a lot about some interesting world issues, notably religious freedom in Malaysia and spillover violence in Lebanon from the Syrian crisis. Writing for this thing has confirmed for me that I really love international affairs and, ideally, would like to incorporate this interest into a career.
As if that weren’t enough, I’m also on the review board of my school’s undergraduate journal of foreign policy. I don’t know much about the journal yet, as I just found out about my position this Sunday, but I’m really looking forward to working with longer-form pieces on international relations.
I’m also staffing a committee for my school’s college Model UN conference this April on Israel and Palestine. I don’t know much about what I have to do yet, but I was pretty swaggy at MUN in high school, so I’m hoping I’ll at least learn a lot. The one problem seems to be that college MUN kids can be more than a little pretentious, but as long as my co-Assistant Chairs are bearable, I should be ok.
And last but not least, I’m a member of my school’s Political Union, which is a nonpartisan debating organization. I haven’t been to one of the weekly debates yet – there have only been two and both have been at impossible times for me – but I really love debate and politics and was pretty much the queen of the Academy’s Political Union, so I’m expecting I’ll enjoy it once I can make it to a debate. I’ve also gone to one of the meetings for the party I joined (the Progressive Party) and everyone is just so intelligent and well-informed. I really want to get to know these people better; they seem like my kind of folk.
So that’s all of the stuff I’m doing on a formal level – classes and extracurriculars, things that go on a résumé, whatever you want to call it. I also manage to get to the gym every day and have left campus for several weekends for riding stuff, and I’m enjoying social life in my house, but I should probably leave those topics for another post. They deserve airtime of their own.