Blog, Sweet Blog

Grad school, y’all

Posted on: Friday, August 28, 2009

Mood: 8.5 on the Rock-o-Meter
Music: Black Flag-Room 13

Insert obvious, American college themed photograph above.

So, I started back to graduate school on Monday.  The first class was pretty interesting, but getting there was hilarious.

I work within walking distance of my school and regularly walk to campus and back during lunch.  There’s a wonderful pub transpo sys (isn’t unnecessary abbreviation the best?) in town but, for some reason, I decided to hoof it.  I started the workday in a low-ish wedge, but switched to, what I thought, would be a much more comfortable pair of flats.  For those of you that don’t know, women’s shoes, in general, can posses three desirable traits: affordability, beauty, and comfort.  However, according to Stanton’s Law of Shoes, there will never be an intersection of all three traits in a single pair of women’s shoes.  For the record, the flats I ended up wearing to class were pretty and inexpensive.  More on that later…

The walk to class wasn’t painful.  Even though I thought I was going to be really late, I made it to the building just as the 5:30 bell rang.  I say building, but it’s actually called an Engineering Center because it’s so gi-mongous and as complex as a city center.  The Center is basically one giant building, but it has all of these charming (unless you’re late for class) secret passageways, blind corridors, moats, and drawbridges.  Yes, I’m in the post-grad program at Hogwarts.

All of the engineering disciplines have space in the building.  The various engineering departments thought it would be a good idea to help students by adding that department’s abbreviation to the beginning of each room number.  So, CHME 14 would, theoretically, be a room on the first floor of the Chemical Engineering department.  My class’s room was something like, CS1B56, so somewhere in the first basement level (yes, that means more than one basement level)  of the Computer Science section was room 56.  It’s kind of like a big hospital with all the signs on the wall telling you that Radiology is down the hall from Oncology and the gift shop.

The “funny” part is that there weren’t any maps in the entire building and only some areas of the building were accessible by others.  I’d take a staircase down to Basement Level 1 only to discover that that section only contained rooms ECE1B1, ECE1B7, ME1B65, and CS1B42.  To get to one of the other 968,000 rooms, I’d have to take a different staircase, or find an exit to the secret courtyard and press the hidden switch in the gargoyle’s right eye to open the hidden passage behind the mural of Gustav Kirchhoff.  Only then would the Red Swordsman allow me to pass after correctly answering three riddles.

I tried asking one girl for directions, but she was as new and lost as me.  Later, another new student asked me for directions and the best response I could muster was, “It’s over there, I think…outside…in the other part of the building? Please don’t ask me any more questions!” And then I ran away.

I managed to find my class after another 30 minutes of blind searching.  Let me reiterate that.  Had I not accidentally, through sheer luck and random chance, stumbled upon my class, I might still be searching for it today.  And, I don’t know if you guys have ever toured the science-y bowels of a giant research university, but they can be kind of scary.  I work in a place like that and I always walk through the halls on the lookout for scientific catastrophes.  Like, I’m going to pass by one of the labs in time to spy  an out-of-control Half-Life-esque, time-space rift emergency.  Or, I’ll be evacuated because the human hybrid genetics experiment in Sector Orange decided, violently, that it didn’t like living in a cage anymore and has, inexplicably, developed a taste for human flesh.  Or, maybe I’ll fall prey to something  more pedestrian, like a  plutonium spill or steam pipe failure  The point is, these buildings kind of scare me and I’d rather not dawdle in their secret, science-y bowels any longer than I have to.

So, I get to class, but had to detour to the bathroom to towel off the lady glow and try to look presentable after my hour-long campus expedition.  I went back to class to wait for the first break (the class is 2.5 hours long).  In most classes, I’d just sneak in and find a seat at the back.  I could only see the instructor in the doorway, so I had no idea how many people were inside or if there were even available seats.  So, I waited until people started coming out for potty break.  I made my way inside and passed a few smiling students.  Post-transition, whenever people are really nice or smile at me, I always have to remember, oh yeah, people are nice to women and you are a woman…smile back stupid. The instructor was at the front talking to another student, so I waited for him to finish.  When he did, he came over and I introduced myself as the new, late girl.  He found me one of the few remaining seats and I sat down.

The rest of the class was thankfully, uneventful.  It’s going to be an interesting and fun class, but it’ll be a lot of working in teams and presenting in class, eep!  I kind of planned it that way, though.  I’m trying to branch out and be more social and this class will be a great opportunity.   So, I think it’s going to be alright.  Ugh, but he’s one of those that assigns homework before the first class.  So now I have to turn in that and this week’s homework before next Monday.

Oh!  I almost forgot the “funny”, walking home part.  Even though my feet were already hurting, I decided to walk back to my car at work.  This decision, the decision to walk to class, and the decision to wear those horrible shoes turned out to be the day’s giant mistakes.  Honorable, bad decision  mention goes to the fact that I was walking alone, on a American college campus, near dusk…not smart.  I need to find someone to walk with or find a way to take the bus back to work.   Anyway, if I hadn’t been so afraid of being assaulted or consumed by C.H.U.D.s, I probably would have just spent the night in a tree or an abandoned classroom.  Somehow, I endured the pain and limped back to my car.  I surveyed the pedi-damage at home–two heel blisters, one pinkie toe blister, two cuts where the edge of the shoe sawed away at the underside my ankle, and the balls of both feet are still sore.  So, next time, I’m either wearing tennis shoes or hiring a porter.

And that’s it! I’m sure this class will become a wellspring of amusing, bloggy anecdotes and you have my word I’ll share them all with you.  Until then, good day!

3 Responses to "Grad school, y’all"

You always spend the first week at a new school wandering around in a daze, missing lectures in elusive classrooms that seem to exist in some kind of space-time pocket that you don’t have the right equipment to detect.

In my first week at uni (which was huge – about 40,000 staff and students), I took advantage of the practice basement in the music faculty, which was this underground lair full of windowless sound-proof rooms containing grand pianos. I didn’t watch the time and found myself locked in there after 6pm. There was an alternative after-hours exit, so I took that and walked down a few corridors and somehow found myself in these genetics labs. The place felt like a completely abandoned, silent hospital. Here and there along the walls were barrels and doors with radiation stickers on them. Turns out I have a dying-of-radiation-poisoning phobia. It was like being in a horror movie, trapped in a labyrinth full of nuclear radiation with escaped mutant freaks wandering the corridors seeking revenge on the mad scientists who created them. The only thing missing was red light and a soft female voice on the P.A. occasionally interjecting my thoughts with “Security Breach in Sector G.” My terror was absolute. Then I noticed cameras and pictured a squad of security guards dive-tackling me as I turned the next corner. Maybe they thought I was a terrorist sneaking into a restricted facility after hours to try and steal plutonium?! Keep in mind this was at the height of a terrorism panic and that I had had to show a security guard my student card to get into the basement in the first place so he could verify I was actually a music student because my university had been the subject of a planned attack rumor. I was so going to jail. I’m too pretty for jail!

*Finally* I found a fire exit and set off an alarm getting outside, so of course, I ran for about 10 minutes until I was sure no-one was following me.

I took extra care never to get stuck in the practice basement after hours ever again.

The bio genetics labs were shut down and boarded up 2 weeks later.

The locals don’t talk about it.

🙂 You do understand me! That was a great, little story, Jamie. I would have taken that as a sign to stop playing piano, but you’re a strong woman for sticking with it.

Unfortunately, I’ve had that sort of thing happen more times than I’d like….don’t ask me about that time I got “lost” while driving around the Los Alamos campus.

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Hi, I'm Anna and I love cheese!

This blog is a chronicle of my life and a catalog of happy ephemera. The About page has a little bit more information, but, remember, none of this is really's just a supplement, a thumbnail sketch, a mostly anonymous Intarwebs placeholder. I'm way better/less wordy in person. :-)

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