Since my list about growing up was such a hit, I thought I’d do a list about the period directly before growing up.
This is part one of a two-part list about College. I’m going to cover the best and worst things about higher learning. It was an eye-opening experience, and I want to document some of my memories, thoughts and events before I forget them.
College was overwhelmingly positive for me. However, there were still things that I didn’t like. I want to start with those so I can end on a good note. Without further adieu:
The Student Health Center
Granted, I only went to the student health center once, but that was enough.
First, it was impossible to schedule an appointment. Then, when I went to my appointment, the entire staff seemed indifferent, which is definitely how you want health care professionals to feel when you’re ill. On top of that, the wait was unbearably long, even though there were only a handful of people. The doctor was the cherry on top. He gave me advice on par with my mother’s (“lots of fluids and rest”) and didn’t give me any antibiotics.
You might be thinking: Well you only went once, how do you know that wasn’t a freak occurrence?
I know because no one has anything good to say about it either. I knew someone who had to go in five different times to be correctly diagnosed with Mono. The first time there was nothing wrong with him. The second time he had a cold. The third time he had Strep Throat. The fourth time he finally had a blood test done. The fifth time he was correctly diagnosed. I have more stories, but I won’t bore you with them
The University of Missouri and the city of Columbia are several hundred dollars richer thanks to me and my ’94 Mercury Cougar. Sure, a lot of the tickets were my fault, but a lot were due to over zealous meter maids and the university’s poor planning.
Street spots on the Mizzou campus are scarce to say the least. Finding one requires telepathy, and even on her best day, Jean Grey would have trouble finding one. Go to a garage then. Right?
Oh, if only.
There are garages on campus, but only one or two have meters. So there were always a ton of people vying for those spots. Theoretically, you can get a parking pass for a garage, but most of them went to staff and faculty. I can count on one hand the students I knew with a garage pass. What I got was a pain in the ass dubbed a commuter pass.
I parked a few miles away from campus, in a parking lot, and took a shuttle to campus. It doesn’t sound that bad…unless you have to stay on campus later than 6:00. After 6:00 the shuttle stops running in 20 minute intervals and starts an “expanded route,” which means you never know when the hell it’s coming, if at all. This caused problems.
My junior year I worked at the community newspaper, and I was putting in around 30 hours a week, even though I wasn’t getting paid. I frequently stayed in the newsroom until 6:00 or 7:00 p.m, which meant a four or five-mile hike across campus continuing off campus to the parking lot.
On most days, I gambled and parked in places I wasn’t supposed to and at meters I didn’t have the money for. It ended as expected, with a glove box full of tickets. And those tickets were made possible by…
Meter maids or parking enforcement officials if you prefer.
I swear they were like ninjas. I would empty my pockets and backpack of loose change for the meter, and I would still get a ticket. I started examining my tickets and found something interesting. Many, many times I was ticketed less 20 minutes after my meter expired. A couple of times I was ticketed minutes after my meter ran out. Yet I never actually saw my car get ticketed. It was infuriating.
I’d be willing to bet that more than a few times a passive aggressive meter maid saw I only had a minute left and waited for my meter to expire. I also thought I would be safe on days with adverse weather. Nope. Blizzard or monsoon like conditions weren’t going to stop them from ruining my day.
One day Columbia got a surprise spring snowstorm, and I had parked on the street by the newspaper office. There was quite a bit of snow collected by the bottom of the windshield and around the wipers. By the time I left the office, it had stopped snowing. I just used my arm to brush off the snow on the windshield. I didn’t know I got a ticket until the next day when it warmed up and the excess snow melted.
Okay, rant over, but I really should sue them. I still instinctively curse when I see a yellow or orange envelope, which makes buying a birthday card rather difficult. And I’m not even allowed in stationery stores anymore.
Ah, freedom of speech, is there anything more American? A Bald Eagle barbecuing bacon-wrapped hot dogs on Independence Day? Well, okay, but I think we can all agree that freedom of speech is pretty great.
Most of the time.
Speaker’s Circle is a small amphitheater on the Mizzou campus. At any time, anybody can stand in it and say whatever they want. It’s used almost exclusively by nut jobs, though. That’s bad enough, but the nut jobs in question are mostly religious nut jobs. I don’t have a problem with religion. I’m not particularly religious, but I don’t mind those that are. I just don’t like crazy people who have an agenda.
Various preachers (and sometimes their families) would set up camp in Speaker’s Circle and tell students they were going to hell. Once, someone told me I was going to hell for, get this, wearing a Clash t-shirt. It was fire and brimstone all day, every day with these people. I’m not a marketing expert, but it seems like antagonism is the worst possible way to get your message across. The students weren’t helping the situation either.
By midday there was usually a crowd gathered around Speaker’s Circle. They didn’t listen, so much as yell profanities and egg on the lunatics. And yes, they were lunatics. Have you ever seen someone wear a shoulder Bible holster? I have. Anyway, Some kids skipped class to sit around and argue or listen to people argue with people who weren’t going to see their point of view EVER.
I have to admit, at first, it was a little entertaining. It was like reality TV; it’s funny and entertaining for a while, but it just becomes sad and tired. Eventually I got sick of idiots yelling at idiots.
If you thought drama ended after high school, you are dead wrong. If you force hundreds of 18-and-19-year-olds to live, sleep and eat together in close quarters, some stuff is going to go down. The Real World proved, and continues to prove, that.
Oh sure, there’s definitely that honeymoon period where everyone gets to know each other. You argue about whether it’s pop or soda; You discuss how you, like, totally watched Pete and Pete too; And you’re a little surprised to learn that your dormmates didn’t go to Jewel or Dominick’s for groceries. On Friday nights you’ll all go out together, walking 15 strong to a party. In two months all of that will be a distant memory.
When so many people live so close together for so long, the secrets flow fast and freely. Then people start talking garbage about their roommates, suitemates or someone down the hall. “Did you hear ____ cheated on her boyfriend from home?” “____ is such a slut, she brings home a different guy every weekend.” “____ isn’t such a tough guy. I heard crying when he was on the phone with his girlfriend.”
Soon everyone is being judged by everyone else. Little factions and cliques are formed. People request room changes. The guy you ate lunch with everyday for the first week is suddenly a social leper. By the end of the year, the dorm basically becomes goddamn high school lunch room.
The application process to get into Mizzou is fairly simple and accommodating. There isn’t an essay, they take either the SAT or ACT and they don’t even ask for a list of extra curricular activities. They used that easy application process to lull me into a false sense of security.
I was in the School of Arts and Sciences until I started my program in the School of Journalism my junior year. A&S was simple. The J-School was not. I had one counselor in A&S. I had three in the J-School, and I only knew about one of the two counselor switches. What really got to me were the APPLICATIONS for REQUIRED classes and thousands of useless e-mails.
Every semester there was always one, but often more than one, class I had to apply to, even though I was required to take it. In addition to the application, some classes required a resume, writing samples and a “personal statement.” I understand the writing samples, but a resume and personal statement? I’m not trying to join the FBI; I’m just trying to take Advanced Writing!
If that sounds like a huge waste of paper, it was. 99.9% of people got into the classes they needed, despite whatever they did or didn’t put on their “personal statement” and whatever they handed in as their writing samples. I found it hilarious that on every one of those damn applications “Why do you want to take this class?” was a question. Uhh, because I have to? I could have dealt with the unnecessary paperwork and questions if I ever knew when the stupid application was due.
The J-School loved to flood my inbox with useless e-mails. On a good day I got between 10-15 e-mails from the J-School and only one would be worth reading. The problem was that they sent me stuff about classes or course changes I had already completed, events no one went to and marked not-so-important e-mails important. This led me to incorporate a rather lax reading policy.
On important e-mails, they felt the need to bury the pertinent information. So I either skipped or didn’t get to it. Not to mention all the important e-mails I deleted because they had a boy-crying-wolf policy of marking almost every e-mail as important. I’m not saying I’m not to blame at all, but come on. There has got to be a better system.
Speaking of the J-School…
Not Enough Classes In My Major
At most schools, journalism falls under the category of liberal arts. However, It’s more specialized than, say, a communications degree. But for some reason it still operates under the same philosophy of other less specialized liberal art degrees: take a million classes in a million different subjects.
I understand the philosophy is to develop a broad base of knowledge, but I really wish I could have taken more literature, writing, advertising and journalism classes. By my count, I took more non-journalism classes than journalism classes.
I get it.
I’m supposed to be worldly, and what not. But, you know what? I’d rather take a literature class than an anthropology or algebra class. And I know there’s value to learning about the Orange Revolution (obscure Eastern European references for the win), but that’s the type of thing a journalist will read about on his/her own time. I’d rather workshop my non-fiction narrative or work on my Adobe Illustrator skills.
To enforce this philosophy, the J-School only let you take a maximum of 10 journalism credit hours in a semester. That comes out to three, three-hour classes and a one-hour seminar. The average course load is 15 hours and classes are typically three credit hours. That means out of five classes in a semester, only three are journalism classes. I think this policy was implemented partly for the reason I already mentioned, but also so students won’t overload themselves or burnout with journalism work.
It’s understandable, but that decision should be left to the student. Most people know what they’re capable of. If you want to take more than three journalism classes you should be able to. If you don’t want to; you don’t have to.
And I’m spent.
Stay tuned for part two folks!