As I type this, it really feels strange to think that by the time this post will be published, I will be a college graduate. At this point, I have shared with you guys both the beginning of my college life, and now the end. For four years you have read my hopes, my obstacles, and my moments of enjoyment as I pushed my way through college life. As I can see the end of this life on the horizon however, I cannot help but think about the experiences that I will leave behind.
This post will serve a dual purpose: For one, it will serve as a photo-dump of the array of memories that I have created here in college over the years. The second purpose of this blog entry will be to serve as a scratch-pad for my thoughts throughout this final semester, as I reminisce about the lifestyle that let me grow so much. To start then, I would like to write a snippet conveying the sense of ease I am at during my final semester at college. Sure some days start off hectic if I oversleep, but every once in a while, I am able to start the day in the most perfectly peaceful way I can ask for–
A Beautiful Morning
From time to time, I actually wake up early for my useless 9:00 AM Introduction to Music class. Since this particular day was a Wednesday, I knew that I had a long day ahead of me, but I was content in the fact that I was able to finish all of my homework due that day with ample time to eat breakfast as well. While I was sitting in front of my laptop, I sign into MSN Messenger out of semi-boredom to find my online friend named seris on. Since seris lived in the Netherlands, we were able to discuss her day which had ended while mine was just beginning.
After giving each other a hard time (as usual), I bid her goodbye and start my day fully somewhat more awake than normal. As I open my bedroom door to leave, my room mate happens to open their door at the same time so we decide to walk out of our apartment together at about 8:45 AM. It was a crisp, grey morning with the grass still somewhat damp. Because of this and the intermittent gusts of wind, the smell of dew was prevalently in the air– a true Autumn morning. As my room mate Charlie and I walk towards the main campus, we don’t say much (as usual while walking) since we are still a little sleepy and not to sure what to talk about so early in the morning. As we split off in our respective directions, I take a moment to soak in the atmosphere for a little while before entering my classroom building, content with the start of my day.
Since this is the last semester of my Senior year, classes honestly do not feel like a large presence in my life these days. Classes are still here of course (I kept some of my less-desirable classes for this semester), but at the same time my free-time also feels more pronounced. Because of the way my schedule is set up, it takes me till about Wednesday to actually mentally process that my weekend is over– classes end around Noon on Mondays and class does not begin till 5:30 pm on Tuesdays. The result is a number of “lazy days” where I really do not have much on my mind other than napping, gaming, and sitting with my friend in the evening to watch whatever is showing up as “free” on Amazon Video. All in all, the general feeling on these days combined with Texas’ weather fluctuations really fosters the “lazy summer day” feeling on certain magical days– welcome breaks from student-life.
Having stayed up till about 4 am last night Skyping with my friend Balance, I woke up close to 1 pm. Our Skype sessions always seem to last at least 3 hours, but at the same time I tend to sleep pretty contently afterwards having tired myself out goofing off. Usually when I wake up this late, I debate whether I want to eat breakfast or lunch for the first meal of the day, but end up sticking with a light breakfast and a medium-sized lunch.
It is such a lazy day… I take my time eating while sitting in front of the computer, playing Eden Eternal while simultaneously reading things on the web. I feel like I should go to work (I don’t have fixed times to come in) but instead flop down on the bed to play my Nintendo DS. Since it is randomly hot outside today, my fan slowly rotates above me on its slowest setting. I can hear the cicadas outside of my window since my apartment faces a ditch and some trees. Honestly, it feels like a scene out of Evangelion… a peaceful Summer day in the middle of a busy school week.
The above anecdote may not seem remarkable, but I would say that the significance of such days is defined by their timing– amidst tests, school work, and club activities, there is a reminder of a life that is ending. As one prepares to go to graduate school or enter the workforce, “summer vacation” or any school holiday loses its meaning. There will be obligations and responsibilities that cannot always be halted on a whim and there would be no real “set period” of extended vacation to look forward to. During my time here however, I feel that I have gotten an opportunity to really grow and explore the real world– all within the company of my friends. Through a variety of opportunities on campus, I have been able to truly leave my mark (and even my legacy) on campus.
For a while, I worked as a researcher, a physics teacher (with my own class), and the president of one of the pre-medical organizations. While I began working these roles for a number of reasons, I found myself learning from each experience things that I did not realize I would. For example, when I taught, I always knew that teachers derived satisfaction from teaching others, but it was only when a few of my students started sending emails personally thanking me for my class and for making physics interesting that I realized how nice this satisfaction felt, especially since it reflected your success at your job. This was nice to know since I was not really the sort of teacher to follow regulations to the letter– I ran things my own unique way (did not care about people who missed class, would not just toss work at students without explaining) that seemed to be well received. This experience actually ended up setting up the way I would approach things when I started working on my own projects as a university researcher– a job I held right up until the end of my undergraduate education.
Reflecting on the Job
In many ways, the laboratory has become a second home to me during my time here. While it is a job (and feels more-so like one because I cannot wait for next semester), I’m never assigned any set hours to come into the lab but rather get paid a flat salary– I run my own experiments on whatever time I want to. Because of this stress-free environment and the fact that many of my duties include only attending to the actual experiment set-up periodically, I feel that I have gotten a chance to grow close to some of my co-workers as friends. Back when I was in the hospital, my supervisor was the first person to visit me in the hospital and then later another co-worker hand delivered a card signed by the entire laboratory to my apartment while I was bed-ridden after surgery. In short, everyone is incredibly friendly and help each other, making it a very relaxed environment to hang around in.
As my “second home,” I often tend to come at night since my either do not feel like working during the day or because I am busy with classes. My desk has a neat little extension to perform minor experiments on while I wait for the sonicator to prepare my samples. My nights here are often like this… sitting at my desk as the only person in the lab, running my samples in the sonicator for hours at a time. Because it is so quiet save for the hum of machinery, it often gives me time to think about well… everything. The serene atmosphere here lets me study in peace, reflect on my day, or even recount how many things my accident-prone co-worker (dubbed “incident-man”) screwed up today. It was actually this zen environment that prompted me to finally download Skype and speak face to face with Balance for the first time.
As I finish up my experiment, I step outside, noting how there are still a few people hanging around the campus despite it being significantly past midnight. Depending on how safe I feel, I often debate calling security to give me an escort home then ultimately decide against it, starting the long walk through the deserted parking lots back to my apartment.
Since my university is an academic oriented and research based college, (to the point where they do not hand out any athletic scholarship) the campus demographic is understandably nerdy, but in the best possible way. Campus-sponsored events have included anime conventions, maid cafes, video game tournaments, a Pokemon safari (where stickers of the 151 Pokemon were hidden across all of the buildings on campus) and more. Personally, I feel right at home at a community that wont think twice about streaming anime in the computer labs as opposed to the typical football mongering college campus. As mean as it is to say, I know some people who wished college life should include fraternities and game-night parties and ended up leaving for another school– improving the student body here by that much more.
As a researcher in an academic environment, I was able to get some perks and appreciation at the university since my name would be featured in the posters and publications (one of which was published in the European Nanotoxicology scientific journal) seen around campus. While I had a lot of fun with my research, my teaching and club officer positions on campus would have a synergistic effect in somewhat promoting my name on campus. In short, it was nice to not be that nameless undergraduate researcher whose job was to move boxes and wash beakers in the shadows of the laboratory.
Because of this odd phenomenon, I found out when my brother started college this year that my name (often as a result of my eccentric ways of doing things) had trickled down to the Freshman class. Somehow, be it because they saw my research work, heard from students that had been in my class, or had seen that I was president of a pre-medical club they would find my name familiar and want to talk to me (while I did not). Out of all these roles however, despite research being a huge destressor and teaching being fun, I believe that my position as club president was my favorite.
A Magnificent Show
Today was the final meeting of my pre-medical club. I have officially relinquished my position as club president and have left the organization in the hands of my successors– a bit of a relief honestly but I will certainly miss the fun involved with me at the reigns. We concluded the school year by giving an award’s ceremony during the final meeting to honor our most active members and then ending the evening with a tasty meal catered by the Corner Bakery Cafe.
To be honest, I ended up caring about the club a lot more than I thought I would going into it. To tell the truth, I sort of went through the motions initially, but when I found how much the members enjoyed the meetings and the atmosphere, I decided to step it up a notch. See, college clubs are a bit different than high school ones in the way that meetings can be massive with so many people attending them. As a result, many clubs focus on volunteer work or something else quantifiable. Our club had always traditionally been more of a “grade-school” club in the way that the atmosphere was more discussion oriented. Because this set-up was novel among the college clubs, there was a lot of room for new ideas to make the experience an even fresher one.
One of the reasons I really disliked the past president was because she only knew how to follow a pattern and lead the club how it had ran for years. She was also very political when speaking which I hated (something that tends to annoy me– when people wont say what is truly on their minds). Some of my friends will attest that my brain allows me to get many unique yet elaborate ideas on the fly and this was put to excellent use. The result was a continual stream of unique and well-received events, a complete overhaul of how the club ran (on a whim actually), and an extravagant atmosphere which often felt like a stand-up comedy with me leading. The impression was profound on the club members (many of which were underclassmen) and it often lead to them bothering me outside of class (such as at the grocery store when I am trying buy a gallon of milk) like I was some sort of celebrity.
The absolute masterstroke of this year however was the SANIC event, a scheme I had put together to make people draw pictures of Sanic Hegehog (that is, a poorly drawn version of Sonic the Hedgehog) while disguising the event as a legitimate club activity. The best part is that this has become my legacy as the new president has plans to continue it next year. In an unexpected surprise, I even got an award from the health professions director at the university created an award so that she could present it to me for my leadership style in the club and for putting together the SANIC event– an award that included a monetary prize to cover some of my medical equipment next year. To quote what Balance had to say about the matter, “Whoa. God damn LOL. This was all a joke to begin with then it formulated into something amazing. Many kudos LOL. This is so surreal, I swear.”
To be honest though, while looking back on my college life tends to emphasize the bright points of the experience in my mind, there are periods where things are less than optimal. I never had a problem with homesickness or anything like that, but there are fleeting moments where I have experienced the realities of how life can wash over you like a current if you stand still too long. My attitude senior year sort of set myself up for it honestly, though my general care-free mindset this semester has helped me prepare for the long road of medical school that much better, I would say.
During high school, I would have time management issues with my schoolwork since I would lose myself playing videos games– namely MMOs. To this day, I still hold the charming environments of MMOs dear in my heart and have even begun to play Eden Eternal from time to time since my medical school interviews concluded.
Some days such as this, I cannot help but feel… disconnected from reality. I woke up this morning at 8:50 am and figured that I would not make it to my 9:00 am class without being late. As a result, I slept in and ended up skipping the class altogether, waking up past noon. At this point, I have missed my 11:30 am class and also skip breakfast. I don’t know… I just feel so… out of it by lazing around here while everyone else goes to class. This cruddy feeling just drains my willpower to do anything so instead of going on campus to eat at the dining hall and do something, I end up sitting at my computer and eating small snacks to tide me over. Even though none of my friends are online, I boot up Eden Eternal to mess around just for lack of doing anything. Oh well, tomorrow is another day.
Such days are normally short lived, but they do come up from time to time. I suppose that comes with living alone with no one to “force” you to do anything– sometimes you just disconnect from the world. In general however, school this semester has been really nice. It’s not just me– most of the classes that I was in where the majority of the students are seniors, there was a general air of carefreeness. Most people already had plans for next semester (which school they were going to, whether they would be repeating classes, etc) and many people were just waiting for this year to finish up.
There was one class that was particularly able to showcase the attitudes of senior students because of its sheer length: Molecular and Cell Biology Lab. It was a four hour lab class that often took up the entire time because the teacher would insist that everybody in the class do every step in the procedure together. The teacher herself was a character, resembling Professor Umbridge from the Harry Potter books and sighing audibly upon entering the room. Because of how she ran the lab, there were many hours spent waiting between steps where we had ample time to get to know our fellow lab peers.
Every Thursday is a mad dash for me to finish my lab report to turn in at the start of lab class. It is a good day if I am able to eat beforehand, but more often than not I am sitting in class questioning the meaning of life as I plop down next to my lab partner knowing that I will be trapped here for the next few hours. What’s funny is that during the lab we often are sitting there rushing the steps and shaving minutes off the procedure in order to get done with our work faster, only to have to sit and wait again.
During this time, we tend to talk to the lab group across from us at our table– two guys who behave like a married couple in a dysfunctional relationship. Since one is always clueless (that is, dumb) and the other has negative self confidence (meaning he asks for confirmation for every little thing he does) their lack of progress tends to be extremely entertaining to watch. What’s great is that the dumb one usually gives up (so his partner does all the work) and begins to say the funniest stupid things, ranging from wannabe profound questions to casually racist proclamations to explaining his family members’ flatulence in great detail. Oftentimes my partner and I are in stitches laughing so hard.
The same guy has also attracted the attention of the professor (Umbridge) who likes to call him out for any mistake that he does. In general, Umbridge seems to enjoy calling people out as evidenced by her policy of deducting points from people who failed to clean up when leaving the class. However, we found out today that if she is unable to find the culprit, she will punish the entire class. As she was ranting about irresponsibility and whatnot, our TA was trying to pipe up in the back that the mess was actually his fault, but Umbridge actually talked over him. As seniors, while we would have cared in past years, nobody in the class cared enough to tell Umbridge and protest the [apparently] unwarranted point deduction.
Finals came and gone this year without much excitement. I have fond memories of past years where I would spend long nights at the library studying for my onslaught of finals. Our campus does a neat thing where it opens the library 24 hours during finals week, which provides an excellent studying environment. The library staff allows students to move around the furniture as they see fit so many people had made makeshift study forts or beds to sleep in. Since the library’s lower levels did not have windows, the passage of time did not play a factor in studying (since sometimes seeing that it is late at nigh makes one tired). One year, my friend and I were studying together and we would have sleep rotations where one would study and the other would take a power-nap so that they could switch off without fear of over sleeping. At the end while the sun is coming up, it’s always a little humbling to see the masses of college students half awake or asleep at their desks having worked hard all night.
Since I no longer do that since I have learned to study effectively on my own, I find myself thinking about the things I eventually “evolved out of” since the beginning of college. My room mates and friends used to go to a lot more campus events and performances, but these outings have largely diminished over the years as we collectively got more busy. To compensate however, we also started hanging out a lot more at each others’ apartments instead– there is a metaphor for growing up and finishing up school here somewhere.
As I write this, my finals have ended and the graduation ceremony will be coming up soon. A couple of my fellow pre-medical friends will not be attending the ceremony (myself included) since we will have a “white coat ceremony” commemorating our entrance to medical school anyways– much more fun I would say. Still though, it has started to hit home now that things are truly ending. My room is a mess with moving boxes, I’ve started to say goodbye to some of my professors, and my group of friends has started to hang out more since we likely will not see each other again after this. Visiting my friend’s apartment after 2 years (he always visited us instead) and hearing him perform guitar for me (something that I had not heard since Freshman year) in a manner much improved from the broken bits of music he used to play also really hit home how much we have matured here in college. As we lived and studied together, time really did pass.
When we are going through it, we sometimes fail to realize how magical college life is. We will never experience anything like this ever again once we are done, and many do not get to experience the sheer embodiment of youth (and one’s graceful exit from it) that it provides. I truly pity those who do not get to experience it’s charm.
This post is set to publish on May 21st, which is four days after graduation. I chose this date because this is the date when the first person among our group of friends is leaving for good– this is when my college life officially ends.
Mana Khemia is a game that I started in my Freshman year and finished in my Senior year. It’s atmosphere and the fact that it followed my college experience makes it rather dear to me. As you view the pictures of my various college adventures below, I invite you to listen to the ending song to the game, as I feel it sums up the mood very nicely.
Our apartment and my room
The campus and surrounding apartment complexes
I come home in the evening and sit on the couch as my room mate walks in circles in the living room, sucking on a lollipop obtained earlier that day. We talk a little bit with awkward pauses in between. After a while, Charlie finally says, “today… does not feel… right.”