Posts Tagged ‘college’

Sometimes old bottles can be really neat, sometimes.

Sometimes old bottles can be really neat, sometimes.

Discoveries are made over the course of year.

For example: what happens to milk left in the refrigerator for, say, six months.

The answer is an interesting mixture of potentially curds and whey. They in all likelihood it is more of a combination of thick white paste and a very watery liquid we affectionately call milk juice.

With a sealed plastic container this is just an interesting experiment with little consequence (it was never opened). However one interesting thing to note: the frost in the freezer section (on a mini-fridge) absorbs the smells particularly well.

So when a refrigerator is improperly defrosted by a roommate and some of that melted frost gets onto the carpet the smells really smell.

It is  currently day three with three layers of Fabreeze (two air sprays and one direct spray) with the windows and doors open whenever someone is in. The smell currently only occupies half the room (not my half) and I hope is slowly receding.

I am tempted to mask the smell by adding something else on top of it, then again that just seems like a bad idea.

The lesson here:

Milk juice; a bad idea.

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A College Night at Super Cucas in Isla Vista,

A College Night at Super Cucas in Isla Vista,

It is often said that college is the best four years of your life. Now that it is ending for me I can see why this is. It is a time where your financially stable, you are content with living with bare minimums, there are no debts to pay, no long term careers to worry about, relatively buffered from the economy, can choose what you want to do and when you want to do it, you are immediately part of a larger community that offers tons of programs and clubs, friends from all sorts of background and ideally you spend your days learning what you want to learn.

And then it ends.

My friends are looking into what jobs they can get, where they are going to live. Some are decide to stay near the University for as long as they can, others move home where it is cheaper and some take a year off before deciding anything.

I know a lot of people would love to relive their college years, in a way this is evidences with the tons of college based movies glorifying the highlights of a year within an hour and a half.

So I recall something my first physics TA and friends told us the first week he taught us:

This is my first year as a graduate student and it is like my freshman year all over again.

As a result I am not sad or worried that my years as an undergraduate are ending. Instead I see them as evolving into my years as a graduate students. Eventually I am may have to join the workforce of the real world, but I don’t think I will ever need too. I am going to spend the next half a dozen years with rockets, balloons, lightning and space. Afterwards I plan to work at pushing at the edges of space.

If college are the best years why do we stop what makes them great?

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Saturday Morning

An empty lake on the Boston Green.

An empty lake on the Boston Green.

As a college student I sometimes forget that there is an entire non-college world out there.

Saturday morning while walking to a beach barbeque I saw something that reminded me that another world existed.

People by themselves, were sitting in their cars facing the ocean in the morning. Some were eating while looking out at the waves, others sleeping, some were elderly couples either reading or sleeping. In each case there was silence, stillness a tinge of sadness. I felt that this was not a unique activity for any of them, rather a weekly or daily ritual of looking off into the waves, either to the horizon or the islands beyond.

There are many worlds out there that I just don’t know about.

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Boston had a lot of good reflective buildings.

Boston had a lot of good reflective buildings.

Today I volunteered for Spring Insight, the weekend where prospective high school students can come to campus and learn more about majors, colleges, activities and student services. Plus a whole host of events and presentations.

It was great, I got to spend all morning and the first part of the afternoon talking to people about physics, how awesome it is and why they should come here. Sometimes they stayed for only a few minutes but some we cornered and talked at for a good twenty minutes about what it is like at UCSB and why they should come here.

Initially I was only going to be there for half the event but ended up staying the entire time as I was enjoying myself; part of it was that I was essentially just hanging out with friends in the enjoyable sunlight.

I finished the the volunteer work off with a nice nap in the afternoon. The start of the quarter is always rough.

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Quarter End

A tower on the Santa Barbara Mission.

A tower on the Santa Barbara Mission.

The end of Winter quarter is approaching; approaching too fast for my taste.

With the end very near my sights I see how much I need to do – the projects, the reports, the presentations – and worry.

Based on my workload I should have no spare time to do anything, yet I find myself being pulled in by distraction and procrastination; the vices of collegiate activities.

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Some things are more expensive then textbooks.

Some things are more expensive then textbooks.


It is that time of year again. The smell of freshly opened cardboard, stacks of paper gleaming on the shelves, yellow stickers proclaiming bargains. The season for textbooks.

The bookstore is freshly stocked, courses have had their reading assigned and all is left is for the books to be plucked fresh from the shelves.

Of course that will cost a lot more then other means.

The internet has filled an interesting gap in an other monopolistic industry of university textbook sales. Without the internet most books would be purchased based on the prices for new and used set in the campus bookstore, now those prices can be compared to new and used on helpful sites like Amazon.

This can lead to large savings, sometimes. I purchased the books I need for my one non-physics course next quarter and I have forgotten what that was like. Instead of a single expensive text the requirement is six sort of expensive books. From the bookstore I found out the books I needed and I then turned around and bought them new and used off of Amazon. This saved me about thirty dollars or so over the used versions of the bookstore.

The possibility of savings are greater for science texts which can be two to three times as expensive in the bookstore for the same book.

Often though the bookstore does have reasonable prices or a slightly higher price for guaranteed quality — the book can be looked at first. The major drawback of buying the internet is the chance that the book will not arrive by the time it is needed.

No matter the method buying books can either bolster confidence in a class or quickly pull it down to preemptive boredom.

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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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Holidays revolve around food.

Holidays revolve around food.

Returning home after several months at college is such a strange experience. Especially Thanksgiving. It is a three day taste of home before returning to not only the intensity of school but dead and finals weeks as well. After the two hardest weeks of the quarter the journey home begins again. This is probably not as strange for those who live close enough to home to return on weekends, for those of us who chose to be a good distance away home is a place only visited for Thanksgiving, Christmas break, Spring Break and Summer. Aside from those four time periods home is our rooms at school.

The transition may seem radical: a college dorm or apartment to a house you grew up in. The norms and habits are so very different. Except childhood muscle memory always kicks in. Chores that were done growing up become standard once again, eating with the family something to look forward too, even the hours awake change back to those growing up. At school getting tired at around midnight seems slightly odd while not being in bed by midnight is strange at home. 

The strangest part is the subtle changes. Fixtures around the house change, door handles are replaced, curtains disappear and occasionally a wall changes color. Pets grow slightly or become better behaved (that is actually a rare occurrence). Seasons are weird also. Santa Barbara has no seasons aside form Sun and Rain while going home thrusts me into the normal (for me growing up) cycle of the seasons. I went from a slightly rainy Santa Barbara to the winter of my youth. The clouds, the temperature and the smells bring back the middle of winter. Oddly I miss real winter when I am in Santa Barbara. 

There is also the slow encroachment of space. Some of my friends have completely lost their rooms to siblings or parents. In my case my room is rapidly turning into a second office and a guest room, me as the guest. I mean my posters and books and stuff are all there, but ever slowly more filing boxes appear and a few more shelves are requisitions for business use.

An inability to do work arises as well. Over the summer I spent my time at home luxuriating in the lack of work that I needed to do. I read, I played video games and I took naps in the sun. Now when I return home with piles of work to do I cannot muster the motivation to do any of it. While at school I can easily work twelve hours straight I can barely do a hour of work without drifting off or finding a snack. Part of it is that I never had a dedicated work space growing up since I never had much homework in high school.

People change. It is not that bad now that I am a fourth year, but for my freshman year coming home for the first time was strange. I was no longest the same person who left two months before. The same thing happened after five months in Europe, people change. That is the point of college in the end, growing.

Going home is always a strange experience. The eight hour car ride is like a journey to another world. In a way it is relaxing but in a way there is always a sense of wonderment at the distinct world of home.

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Nothing to see here, move along.

Nothing to see here, move along.

Fall quarter is a very sneak quarter.

The beginning is a fresh year, time to accomplish anything, finals a distant future.

A few weeks in a groove is found, it is known when homeworks are due and when to do them (most of the time the day before).

Then without out warning you are mired in a sea of midterms, one, two, three in the first week. Then that fourth class goes rogue assigns one in the week after that.

Maybe a week of respite or maybe a class has a misunderstanding of the word “midterm” and there is a second or third from the class.

By this time Halloween has gone and November is in full force. Climbing out of midterms and exams you look towards the future and see food.

Piles, mounds, gobs of delicious consumables. Thanksgiving holiday is coming. Rides home are arranged and life looks good. The short week before has some minimal homework but mostly it is about stretching before the big day.

Just one thing lies beneath of the surface of conciousness, a whisper in the dark that barely wakes you in the dark as you dream of pie mountains:

Dead week.

Right after Thanksgiving is Dead Week. Some believe it was named because there were no classes before finals or that work was limited. My theory on the origins of this name is that the week makes us envy the dead. 

Rest is gone and finals are here. Even more critically it is when all of the applications tend to be due: study abroad, summer internships, graduate school or research proposals.

Then it is over. It is done. With the beauty of the quarter system every obligation and class requirement is gone like the memories of October. Two, maybe three weeks of rest before Winter Quarter.

Winter Quarter is not a sneaky quarter.

It is just wet.

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