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Archive for December 4th, 2008

 

Geometry can be found in many places.

Geometry can be found in many places.

Talking with Freshman about how school is going leads often to several topics: transferring, study abroad and research.

A lot of students, not just freshman, have a desire to transfer away to another college. Sometimes there is a legitimate excuse involving degrees or available courses, often it is for reasons that should not cause a transfer.

Most of the time it is homesickness. For the first time people are living away from home and the distance is hard to accept. They want to transfer to a closer school and the closer school tends to be one not as good as the current school (UC to CSU). This is a bad idea. Part of college is the growing experience of living on ones own away from the immediate support of family. It is one of the only ways to gradually break free of dependance and learn how to be ones own person.

Those that get homesick also go home many weekends during the quarter. This only makes the problem worse. Going home during the quarter (like every weekend) undermines the independence built during the weeks. Sometimes though the family will not let the student go and come to visit or demand that they come home through guilt or other nefarious means (pie would be one of them).

The solution is the next topic I push on Freshman: Study Abroad. It is not just a great idea it should be mandatory. Getting outside of the normal and into a new culture is a life changing experience. It doubles as a great way to force the separation between dependance on family and the student. It is not an easy thing to do, it is hard at times but living abroad really builds a persons confidence in themselves. I found it helpful to also define who I am as a person and what I want to do with my life (turns out it was more school).

Besides, the friends met while studying abroad will be friends for a lot longer then those casually made through classes. I guess another encouraging points is that the drinking age is a lot lower abroad, so is the exchange rate a the moment (not when I went).

Often the excuse is that it is hard to do with their major. I just want to say that I did it as a physics major and I will be graduating on time within four years.

Lastly there is research. Many people do not take advantage of one of the best opportunities offered at Universities which is working for a professor. Any major can do it. I had a friend working for a political science professor looking up articles, summarizing them, contacting others in the field for information and generally loving it. It is easy to find something to do in the hard sciences, it is almost expected. Soft sciences could be trickier but if you are persistent it is possible. Liberal arts may be more difficult to find work for but I know it is possible, I have a friends doing research in the linguistics department.

Many people do not think they are qualified to do research. This type of thinking will always prevent a research job from opening up. If a professor asks if you can do something never say no, say that you will learn fast. Most of the time the research position is so that you learn how to do research not performing actual research (at first anyway). It also looks great when applying to graduate school or related fields.

Later I will write on the best way to find a research position as it may seem a daunting task. The key point to remember is that a professor can only say no. They will not go around to other professors or schools talking about this person who dared to ask them for a research position. They do not have that kind of time.

In short: you get over homesickness, study abroad at least for a summer or a quarter (a year is way better) and get a research position as soon as possible.

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