37.5% Done With This Stepping Stone

Yet another semester has passed by– a passing that is indicated by the interruption of a long period of silence on my blog. Blogging is one of the activities I look forward to when I am on holiday, since during my day to day activities, I often make mental notes to mention on my future posts. That being said, I made sure to glance at my Google Analytics report to see how my traffic is holding up. I am happy to note that approximately 100 visitors still stumble onto these pages daily, even if most are either after my images or are robots (no hard feelings, guys!). Of course, I also feel that it is my responsibility to keep the interest of my readers so I feel the need to apologize for the abundance of daily-life content as of late. I understand that such content is not always interesting to read for people who do not know me very well, but this truly is an all-purpose blog (I didn’t want to limit my writing freedom of course). Rest assured, there is more accessible content on its way… As my exposure to such media permits, of course!

For now at least, the experience most prominently on my mind is the recent completion of my third semester of college– the first half of Sophomore year. As many of you know, college has been a huge part of my life since my admission. I attend the University of Texas at Dallas as a pre-health undergraduate, en route to Medical school Fall of 2013. Those who have traveled down this path would know that its a difficult one, mostly because of the amount of time it commands. This year, and the one after it, can be considered as “Crunch Time” since afterwards, all you do is play the waiting game (for admissions). Despite this, it’s always a little disheartening when you are so busy when your friends (those engineering and masters-types) are not. Like with most day-to-day experiences though, now that I am done and on holiday at home, my memories of Fall 2010 feel largely romanticized.

To be honest, I felt pretty numb during this past semester. I’m not sure if it was a subconscious arrogance that I am no longer a Freshman or the simple lack of new experiences that charmed me so much last year. Thats another reason I like to post experiences like these by the way– it makes me logically pick apart and reevaluate myself. At any rate, I would say that I rather disliked this semester because of this feeling. I am optimistic about my next semester however since the things on my plate look… Colorful to say the least. Nevertheless, this semester had its high points– things that I would like to remember throughout my college years.

We are learning SO HARD here. I think Dr. Glosser was talking about the effect of charge dispersion when it is grounded or something.

One of the things that made this semester unique is the fact that I spent most of it with nerds visited the Collegium V honor student lounge more often. The lounge itself is pretty remarkable, seeing that your student ID must acknowledge you as an honors student to even let you in. It is the only place on campus (aside from administrative/security areas) open 24/7, making it a great place to study. In addition, it boasts a kitchen (usually dirty due to nerds), a large “main” area lined with computers for the purpose of LAN games, a TV room with a few consoles that seem to change (at the moment, a Gamecube, Super Nintendo, and Playstation), a Library, and a server room providing a few dedicated machines to the lounge (as well as a dedicated Internet line). In short, it’s a pretty remarkable place if you can get past some of the nerds that live in it (hey, it’s 24/7). Accordingly, it is often advertised to incoming Freshman as an incentive to be a CV Honor Student and many look forward to it. To be honest though, I did not really visit it last year. I went there a few times to escape from my room mates’ friends or print something, but I never really established it as a “study location.”

This semester, as stated previously, was different… But not because I suddenly gained an interest in the lounge. It appears to be a recurring theme for me to have an Internet catastrophe near the beginning of each year. Last year, my NIC card got fried. This year, my campus apartment complex decided to boldly plunge into the new wireless era of the Internet and turn the entire complex into a giant WiFi hot spot. Now this would be kind of cool actually, if it worked. Basically, AT&T came and set up a number of wireless way points on each building to redirect your login to a central unsecured router named “attwifi”. I for one knew that this could not be a good idea, and accordingly, the whole ordeal was plagued by slow way points, dropping connections, sluggish speeds, and snooping computer science majors. Eventually, the student-run campus newspaper reported on the issue, running their own tests. Due to the unsecured nature of the router, it was very easy to sniff the traffic traveling through the air. In addition, since everything is routed to the same place, they found that it was possible to screen everything that passes through the way points.

I found the report out later however, as my connection became unusable due to its constant dropping. At this point, I began to walk 10~15 minutes in the cold weather from the CV Lounge and back, just to use my Internet. At times, I would stay until three or four in the morning, based on my course load. The electric bill fell sharply during this time. In short, the apartment complex got fed up with tenant complaints and refunded the Internet money. Since then, we have obtained our own DSL service from (ironically) AT&T. This of course prompts some of our acquaintances to stop by to utilize our stable connection (since some people chose to be Internet-less after the rent amendment). Thankfully, I remedied this by configuring the network myself to be temperamental with connections other than my room mate and mine. They tend to not stay as long.

In the studying areas of the lounge, there are no windows. There is a an alarm clock in the corner that flashes the wrong time as if the power went out recently. There is no passage of time as you are isolated from the rest of the campus.

This, as you can imagine, took place over the span of many months. By the time the rent was amended, I was a regular visitor to the CV Lounge to study, print, …You name it. Due to force of habit (one that I have probably already broken), I ended up utilizing the lounge as my study-spot for the duration of the semester. All that being said, my favorite memory of this semester is my time spent at the lounge. While studying for Organic Chemistry in particular, we would often stay late at night in hopes of covering all of our bases. I must say however, the longer you stay up, the more rapidly your efficiency diminishes. Take the night before the Organic Chemistry final for instance– it was a busy night for the lounge for both the studying and the panicking. I sat down to study with my friends since about 8PM if I remember correctly. There were approximately 50 fundamental reactions to memorize, to say nothing of the concepts. After studying till about 11PM, we decided to go out and grab a snack and get some fresh air to refresh ourselves. After returning to the lounge with some Jack-In-The-Box, studying for a few more hours seemed to be pushing our limits. At one point, we grabbed a random stuffed Linux penguin in the lounge and started throwing it around. Well– maybe the term “we” is incorrect here. It was mostly my friends who decided to name, assault, and joust with the penguin as their attention spans dwindled (or perhaps I was just overworking myself at that point). At one point, I was the only one awake, but I ultimately chose to walk 10 minutes back to my apartment for the sake of getting in 1 hour of sleep before my next class… It was already light outside.

Numerous other happenings took place in the lounge since there is no argument that it contains a rather colorful group of inhabitants. Every so often, there is a typical honors student an overly ambitious student who feels like they are a big-shot in their feel of study and are on their way to becoming the next <insert famous person in their field>. This case was exceptionally entertaining since it turned into a debate with my friend, who was not thinking optimally since it was pretty late, causing much amusement for the rest of us.

We covered the board in Organic Chemistry. My writing is the orange.

There was a freshman who I shall politely refer to as the Political Science Dude (or PSD) complaining about the lack of school spirit at UTD. Now, the University of Texas at Dallas is not a school one come to for night life, athletics, Greek houses, or traditions. UTD is a purely academic school that (as of posting) gives no athletic scholarships (only academic), has a strong Math/Science department, and attracts every Asian/Indian in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It is not a school to have good times at the football stadium or bonfire at. It is a very academically inclined school which hosts campus sponsored LAN tournaments and Pokemon Safaris to appeal to the nerdy population. Truth be told, I love it.

Now here comes PSD. Clearly, he is at the wrong school and is disillusioned by what he sees: No one knows the fight song (including the dance team for the most part) and the maximum attendance at sports game is probably 10 max, excluding the players’ parents. The crux of the matter is the fact that the population is so disproportionately geared towards studying instead of extracurriculars that things shape out this way. PSD is trying to convince the lounge that this mindset is “unhealthy” for our “fledgling community” and is <insert clichéd political science diagnosis here>. It’s a little difficult to portray it in the post, but it was pretty hilarious how all his points were getting shot down. He completely lost the will to argue around the time the Homecoming King (I wasn’t aware we had one) wandered in. Upon being asked why he has school pride by PSD, his highness replied  that “it’s going to be a miserable four years so I make it better by …kind of having pride in it?” I love my school. The rest of us have pride in having no pride in the things most people would have pride in at a school, by the way.

I was the only one left awake to take this picture. Opening the emergency exit was our only means to check how light it was outside.

Aside from the lounge, there are a few more experiences worth note such as attending an absolutely wonderful Jazz performance (big fan of Jazz, by the way) by the professors at my school and watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 with my friends, but those days were about as normal as can be.

The only other memory standing out in my mind right now is Thanksgiving Holiday. I did not go home for vacation since it was too short for that and I had much to do. This of course did not mean the dining hall staff was forced to work. Most of the food places on campus had reduced or nonexistent hours, so I was a little concerned as to how I was supposed to maintain my nutritional intake. Luckily, the Peer Advisors hosted a Thanksgiving Day meal at the residence hall for all of us stranded students. When I walked in, it was rather homeless-shelter style since you basically went down a line, obtaining food at each station as you went. After obtaining the food however, I was amazed at the quality, seeing as I did not have very high hopes to begin with. Turkey, gravy, stuffing, beans, pie, lemonade, cranberries, and all sorts of things were given to us– it was nice to know they cared. This did not stop losers from abusing the system, but I was glad to hear that there was plenty left over.

Since my room mate from last year’s older brother is a Peer Advisor, he was nice enough to invite us to partake in eating the leftovers that evening. It was a rather moody evening to be honest– due to Daylight Savings, the sky got dark a lot earlier. We drove to his apartment in the dark with my former room mate (the one I was actually friends with) sitting in the back plucking away at a guitar… slowly… softly. The campus was quiet and empty too, being the holidays. I quietly treasured the fleeting moment. Ali’s (the PA) apartment was warm and welcoming when we got there. The sibling antics, the food, and the thrill of just getting out of my apartment made me actually relax that night. I’ve found that it’s been harder and harder for me to relax without having something on my mind– it was a welcome change.

The finals came and went and passed through me the same as the semester… without inducing and feeling. Something about this semester caused me to not have a clear head. Undergraduate is just a stepping stone in my medical career after all, and I’m done with three-eighths of it. After lingering a few more days, my room mate and I packed and drove down to Houston together.

After saying farewell, promising to see them soon, and picking up my bags, I went out to greet my family.

This picture points down the long path I would walk home at UTD. I have two homes however. Home in Dallas, and home in Houston.

Still quiet here.sas

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Hi there! Are you the new transfer student? You should probably register at the faculty office first so you can get an ID. Maybe we'll be in the same class!