I’ve been in college for a week and so far everything is going well. I’ve now had all of my classes at least twice, and I’ve also been able to do quite a bit of exploring around the campus.
As it turned out, the first book I’m reading for my honors inquiry into the humanities class is Tim O’Brian’s The Things They Carried, which is a semi-fictional, semi-non-fictional, semi-memoirist look into the experiences of the author during and after the Vietnam War. Although I’ve only read seven chapters of the book – including “The Things They Carried” and “On the Rainy River,” which I both read last year in AP English Language – what I’ve read so far has been pretty good. We get together in class twice a week to basically discuss our opinions of what we’ve read, much like what a book club would do. In addition, we’re also required to post at least two discussions to an online message board set up through UND’s “Blackboard” application.
Chemistry is currently my favorite class, due to quite a few reasons. The professor seems to be really good – it’s quite apparent that he knows what he’s talking about – and, since it’s a 200-level course, everybody in the class is either majoring in chemistry, chemical engineering, or something else that would require a thorough understanding of chemistry. Chemistry is my only class in a lecture hall environment, but, even so, it’s held in a rather small lecture bowl that can only seat about 50 people. The total number of students in the class, however, is around 25. Right now, we’ve just basically been reviewing material that should have been covered in high school chemistry, AP chemistry, or chemistry 121.
German II is another class that I’m enjoying. The professor is what I imagine Herr P will be like in 25 more years, with a mellower disposition and grayer (facial) hair. The class is kind of boring, though, since all we’re doing right now is reviewing the very basic stuff from German I, like how to properly conjugate a verb. There are all sorts of abilities represented with the 30-or-so people in the class, though, so the review is necessary, especially for those who may have just begun their German instruction in college.
All in all, Herr P really deserves to be commended for how strongly he believes in actually teaching German, since I’ve been hearing quite a few stories from people who had horrible high school German teachers, or at least ones that feel teaching German involves merely showing videos and giving everybody an A. I haven’t yet spoken with anybody who was required to speak in German the entire hour that German class met.
I’m also taking Calc this semester, which is turning out to be quite the interesting class. My professor does not believe in the usefulness of having a calculator develop graphs to functions, and would rather we spend some time drawing all graphs out by hand on a piece of paper. I guess I can draw simple graphs all right, but it could get annoying and frustrating if/when I have to draw out graphs to increasingly complex functions.
One of my favorite features here on campus is the ability to get the newspaper every morning. Complimentary copies of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Grand Forks Herald, and the USA Today are delivered each morning to all of the resident halls, so basically I just have to go downstairs to the lobby area to pick up the morning newspaper.
While on the subject of newspapers, the Grand Forks Herald is one of the best manufactured mid-sized city newspapers I’ve ever seen. Logically enough, the first section – A – contains only news pertinent to the city of Grand Forks and the surrounding area. The second section, meanwhile, appropriately labeled “the second front” is where all the world, national, and regional (North Dakota/Minnesota area) stories are stuck. This is one of the things I wish the Brainerd Dispatch would try, since I’ve always felt its greatest problem is how best to balance the important local stories/features with the important world and national news stories culled from the Associated Press's wires.
Continuing on with newspapers, like putting a firecracker into the hands of a toddler, one of the advertisements in Friday's Grand Forks Herald was a huge fold-out poster advertising NDSU as now being an NCAA Division-I school. Let's just say that some people got this unwelcome poster taped to their doors while they weren't looking.
And once more about newspapers, UND's official one, The Dakota Student came out today. It has two distinct sections with quite a few articles and is overall a very nicely written student newspaper. It comes out twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays I believe, so that means I'll have one more thing to read whenever I get the opportunity.
The food in the dining hall I’ve been primarily eating at (Terrace) has also been pretty good. It’s definitely not at all like the food served in the public schools in Brainerd, and it feels like I’m in a restaurant, rather than a cafeteria, every time I go to have lunch or dinner. The selection of food has always been really good as well, and I’ve always gotten full thanks to the all-you-can-eat buffet type atmosphere presented at each dining hall.
The library here, named after Chester Fritz, is also quite amazing. It's housed in a 4-story building and is the largest library in all of North Dakota. Every floor has a large quiet studying area, but the largest, and my most favorite, is the “fishbowl” one on the second floor. I like to think of it as an über-SRC, since it’s basically a gigantic room enclosed in glass with glass windows and doors, hence the name “fishbowl.”
There are two large computer labs in the library, plus some more computers scattered about here and there. On Thursday, I even used a small lab that had nothing but Apple computers. It was pretty fun to play around with OS X again, and I really enjoyed playing around in Adobe Photoshop CS that all of the computers have.
I also stumbled upon the periodicals section of the library, where all of the documents that come out on a periodic basis are kept. All of the normal things you’d expect in such a collection, such as journals of medicine and reviews of what’s been happening in government are there, but so too are magazines, such as Life, The Saturday Evening Post, and National Geographic. In fact, the periodicals section includes issues of magazines such as these dating all the way back to the 1930s; for National Geographic, the archives go back to 1908. There is also a whole row of nothing but German publications, including Der Spiegel dating back to the 1940s. Although only staff and graduate students are allowed to check the periodicals out from the library, there’s nothing preventing me from picking up one of the hardcover books the issues are held in and sitting down at a table to look it for awhile.
Even though there are about 12,500 students this year at UND, the area of the campus containing the majority of the academic halls gets really quiet at night. It’s pretty peaceful, actually, to go out for a walk at about 7 PM – an hour and a half before the sun sets these days – and gaze around at the ornate buildings and gardens on campus.
I actually went out earlier last evening to take some pictures around the campus. If I get them uploaded to my computer shortly, I will likely make a post sometime in the future.