Sunday, November 21, 2021

Takeaways + highlights from first semester of college

Don't get too excited, I haven't gotten absolutely smashed drinking Whiteclaw upside down. 

I did have a lot of fun though meeting new people! People are what make college, I've found. If you surround yourself with the wrong people, life will suck. The people I've met here come from all over-- Nigeria, Vietnam, Mumbai, New Mexico, Los Angeles, Moscow, and Lebanon (I particularly like international students because they are some of the more hardworking people I've met here). 

  • A caveat about people: it's still pretty difficult for me to find "intellectual" friends- as in, people who can hold intelligent conversation and are really driven to *do things*. I originally thought it was the product of my environment (being surrounded by confused freshmen in a not-really-prestigious state school), but I've learned that I'm maybe judging people too harshly. Most people, all the way up to the Ivy League, stumble through life myopically. Even the smartest people can lack foresight and directed ambition! Perhaps what's startling for me is that the people I see in my self selected bubble online have their lives figured out (and to be fair, they lean mostly in their mid-late twenties compared to late teens lol). And to be clear, I'm not saying I'm better than my college mates-- I have no idea what next Tuesday or 5 years from now will bring-- but I pride myself in being very future minded which is something I've lacked to see in classmates.
  • Clubs in college, like in high school, are gimmicky and poorly run. Most clubs are recreational, and I've heard the pre-professional ones (like business frats...) are kind of a cult. Needless to say: clubs are a waste of time, focus on building yourself to get the highest ROI
  • I realized I much prefer living alone than living with a roommate. It's more a problem with me than other people tbh- I am a very light sleeper and I also need a place where I have privacy
  • I am much less stressed out with the spaced out schedule college provides. I only have around 2-3 classes a day compared to the 8-10 classes high school crams in a day. Because things are more generously spaced out, I'm never *too* stressed and the content I learn in a day is much easier to digest
  • Professors are hit or miss:
    • I really love my biology professor-- he's the kind of teacher you'd want to take classes with again and again! I thought that an introductory biology course would be too basic to enjoy, but it's honestly a flawless course IMO. We've learned about everything from cell signaling cascades to CRISPR (not just an overview in passing, but how it actually works in vivo!) to recombinant plasmids and promoter regions. Taking this course has absolutely reinforced my love of biology.
    • The introductory sequence for CS is kind of crap here. It's mostly an Intro to Java Syntax course more than anything-- which makes it particularly dull. Writing code in Java is like walking on hot coals with all the fucking brackets and semicolons. I also particularly dislike the emphasis of OOP-- not everyone in CS (cough cough, me) wants to become a software engineer! I wish there was more emphasis on data science, statistics, and AI earlier on in the CS curriculum in college.
    • From what I've seen, math professors are make-or-break for absolutely foundational knowledge. I'm taking Calc I right now, and I'm painfully aware of this fact. Luckily for me, I have a very geeky grad student with a CS background, so I'm actually enjoying the course-- but for others in calculus courses, I've heard everything from raving reviews of professors to seething hatred and misery. I insist on using RateMyProfessor for all of my math professors lol
    • If not necessary, I will never take a liberal arts course again. I have to take one right now for honors' college requirements and its totally a lost cause. The problem with liberal arts, I've found, is that it's way too interdisciplinary. We learn everything from the Cave Allegory to over scrutinizing Silent Spring and doing metta meditation. Not to mention that the political environment here leans very far to the left, which makes every class a blast to be in as someone who doesn't hate the word "capitalism" !
  • Joining a lab here was a very smooth and easy experience. I looked for labs doing research tangentially related to aging, sent out a few emails, and got responses relatively quickly (in HS I sent out ~100 emails with an abysmal response rate over the period of months). I honestly think I stuck gold with the group I joined-- they're doing really amazing research, both computational and wet lab based! From what I've seen, the PI is a very friendly and nerdy guy, and the grad student I'm working with appears diligent and knowledgable. Things are still early and I'm just getting settled in-- but I'm very excited to watch where this goes :D

With all that being said, I am pretty satisfied with how university life is turning out. I'm making friends, keeping up with school, and still have my eyes on the prize of getting into biotech. I'd rate this semester a 7/10 so far.

Thanks for reading :)

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