October 3rd, 2010

Recap on Orientation + Weeks 1-4

Orientation (Pictures to Come):
If you didn't know, I arrived at RIT on August 28th, four days prior to Freshman Orientation for my Honors Orientation.  My mom, dad, Laurie, sister, and Maria all came to help.  When we arrived, there were tons of people helping to carry stuff, and in simply two trips to my room, three cars had been unpacked.

Speaking of my room, here is the original layout (I eventually changed this [see below]):

Returning to the topic of Orientation now...
Honors Orientation was extremely monotonous! We spent four days playing ice breaker games and eating hamburgers. We did a 2 hour scavenger hunt around RIT where we were handed a packet of pictures with clues, and we had to run to find each picture and take a photograph to prove we found it. If you found the most pictures, everyone in your group would receive a $25 gift card to the RIT Barnes & Noble. My team figured that if we had to do it, we were going to do it to win, and we basically ran from place to place (mind you RIT is over a mile long). In the end, we had found all but ~4 of the ~60 pictures, including bonuses. We lost by one point because another team found an extra bonus...This just made me hate Honors Orientation even more. However, some good things did come out of it. I met a guy named David Wennersten, who I immediately named Texas due to his origins. Texas is a lot like me in many ways. We both love metal, Sweedish metal to be exact, and we both have very similar philosophies, hobbies, tastes in movies, etc. For instance we both love Tolkien…and well, we are geeks! Also, one of the Honors Orientation days we got to go to a YMCA camp and mess around. Again, the ice breakers SUCKED…but I got to play Ultimate Frisbee, swim in a lap pool at night, and scale a 20 foot wall. I was one of the three guys who hoisted everyone over the wall…and there were a few dozen to go. Then, I asked if the counselor would allow me to try and run up the wall, and he did…so I ran up the wall and grabbed onto his hand and he helped pull me up the rest of the way (cool pictures to come). So that was pretty much Honors Orientation…I discovered how socially awkward most RIT students are, learned the layout of the campus, banged my head against a wall a few times (just kidding), and met a cool dude.

Now on to Freshman Orientation…
Pretty much the same thing…Although it started with me moving Kyle in and setting up his computer. Besides that…more ice breakers with a new mentor and new kids…and the occasional speech we had to attend. Convocation was a huge gathering of all the incoming freshman, and we got to hear a bunch of people talk about NTID (National Technical Institute of the Deaf), and how 1 in 10 of us is deaf…diversity, etc, and we got to hear President Destler speak. Later in the week, we had a speaker talk about how he killed his three best friends by driving drunk. He had a video of the whole night, and yeah, it was really depressing…necessary for the asshats who do that shit…but simply depressing for myself. Besides all of the hoopla, I met some more cool people: Amber and Michelle (roommates…and ironically enough…live at the end of the hall on the fifth floor, directly across from Texas!). I taught everyone texas holdem, and we played volleyball at night.  Volleyball was always fun and interesting because we frequently wound up playing against large groups of deaf students.  It is a cultural experience all in itself to practice communicating in different ways besides orally.  It is a great way to learn patience, and to build problem solving...everyone is usually very nice and cooperative too.

Oh, and in the end, I could not stand the lofted bed, so I rearranged my room (and added posters!)...

And that was pretty much Orientation…

Summary of Week One (of Ten per Quarter):

I can’t remember everything from week one exactly, seeming as how I am writing now at the end of week four from the basement of my hall sitting on a bench watching my clothes spin in circles, but I will do my best:

I remember meeting all of my professors, and liking them all, and I remember that on Friday I went to the wrong room looking for my Organic Chemistry class because apparently there was a schedule change. Thank God RIT has wifi everywhere; I used the internet on my iPhone and looked up my schedule, and made it to class only 3 minutes late. Speaking of Orgo, I was delighted (sarcasm) to discover that we have a quiz at the end of class everyday (not to mention it’s an 8am class). Besides that, week one went well. I played some more volleyball, went to the ballroom dancing club on Monday, and started my Judo classes on Tuesday. Friday after my Bio lab got out at 5, I picked Maria up from the downtown Amtrak station. Maria, my friends, and I went out to dinner at TC Riley’s Irish Pub, and we got fat. It’s cool because most local stores and restaurants take Tiger Bucks off of our RIT IDs. We all played volleyball too. On Sunday, my mom and sister came up. Again we got fat by eating at Five Guys. They also brought me my mail and some stuff I needed. We went to BJs, Wegmans, and the Dollar Tree to get food supplies. Speaking of going to the Dollar Store…I ran in to buy some spoons and the creepy cashier kept joking about why I might be buying two metal spoons…pretty sure she thought (or wished) I was a coke dealer/user.

That was pretty much week one…

Summary of Week Two:

Went about the same as week one. I met professors during their office hours for help, started a small hw group for Project-Based Calc II, and got into the swing of things. On Saturday my dad visited and we went to Red Robin to eat, and then to the theatre to see Resident Evil Afterlife in 3D. We ended the day by killing zombies in my room (L4D2).

Summary of Week Three:

Week three stepped things up a notch again. Being 1/3 of the way through the quarter meant test time. I studied my ass off and took a Project-Based Calc II exam, as well as a Gen Bio exam. I got a 96 on my Bio exam, and an unbearably, embarrassingly low grade on my Calc exam; however, I still have a B+ in the class, so I am not too worried. Maria visited again on Friday, and Saturday we went to the Fall Open House so that she could learn more about RIT and the major she is interested in (Packaging Science). We spent most of the morning to afternoon walking around, checking out the labs, and talking to a Packaging Science professor. It seems like an extremely fun major, and a high-paying, in-demand job. Then, in the afternoon, I had a very exciting visit from Ana and Alvaro Galan (old friends from my NOLA [New Orleans, LA] trip). We all went to eat at TC Riley’s Irish Pub, and we talked about a lot of things, including Keats (spelling?), their cute puppy in training for the Seeing Eye Dog program. We also talked at length about Alvaro’s college planning…I tried to talk him into choosing RIT over U of R, haha. I also gave them a quick tour of the campus…it was a nice visit. Sunday was a relaxing day with Maria, that ended in me driving 90mph (just kidding mom…I meant 65) to get Maria to the Amtrak on time for her to head back to Syracuse…I kind of fell asleep while she doodled a fake tattoo on my back…waking up to see that we were out of time…

Summary of Week Four:

This last week was pretty much studying and dragging myself to classes. Everyone at RIT is sick…in fact I picked something up last week (forgot to mention that) on Tuesday at Judo…poor Maria got the RIT sickness herself to bring back to Baldwinsville. Thursday was my busiest day. I did HW/studied from 2-6, ate dinner, and then went to a talk by Rebecca Skloot about her novel The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It was very interesting…I recommend that you take a look at what it is about (I will post a picture). The talk made me think about my options when I graduate and start looking for a job. I think that on top of research, and scientific writing, I would like to immerse myself into the moral discourse that surrounds science. I could see myself as a scientific politician who builds a case for the morality, or lack there of, for controversial issues related to research. Anyways, after the talk, I went straight to Organic Chemistry review from 9-10, and then rushed back to my room to study all-night…and when I say all night, I mean it. I had about 45 mins of HW to finish up, and then I studied/periodically face planted (fell asleep) on-and-off until 2am (at which point I decided I wasn’t accomplishing anything and decided to power nap and get up early), and then got up at 5am to study some more before my test at 8am. As The Four Seasons would say, “Oh what a night!” The exam went well…I wasn’t having any trouble, and I kept moving at a solid pace through the exam…I didn’t get hung up…but then I looked up and noticed that we had 15 minutes left and I had two pages of unanswered questions (questions that take drawing molecules, etc)…so I rushed to finish, and wound up with an 80…so not bad at all for how lengthy the exam was. The class average was a 73. 11 people scored higher than me, and 28 scored lower. My overall in Organic Chemistry at present is a 94. The class average is an 89. So all and all things are going pretty well…besides the fact that teachers seem to take points off for everything known to God. My first Orgo Lab report, which took me seven pages, and hours of research mind you, came back as a 78. After speaking with my professor, he concluded that I am too worried, and that it was a good grade to start with…these people are clearly crazy…nevertheless, my grade was exactly what the class average was…so most of us are in the same boat. On a different note, I decided to go play volleyball Friday night as a stress reliever, and got to play with the RIT Saudi Arabian group again (forgot to mention I did that before in like week two), which is a ton of fun! The group is an absolute riot…there are frequent ten minute pauses in the middle of each game where everyone argues about something in Arabic while I just laugh and watch. Nevertheless, they are all very kind and cooperative with speaking in English so that I know what is going on.

And finally, I have caught up to today. Today, Saturday, I spent cleaning and washing, and cleaning…and washing…I did four loads of laundry (two of clothes, one of bedding, and one for my Judo gi). Then I folded all my clothes and put them away, and made my bed. I also hung my Judo gi to dry (it can’t be machine dried or it will shrink), and washed all of my water bottles/dishes. After that, I tidied up my room/put everything away, and went around using Chlorox disinfecting wipes to clean everything off. The day ended with me going with Kyle, his mom, and sister to Olive Garden for never-ending pasta, salad, and bread sticks…and pit stopping at BJs.

^^Clean Room^^

Besides all of this, I have been really exploring music further since I have arrived at RIT. On average, I listen to two new albums per day while I work. I am enjoying this thoroughly. I also plan to start going to Avi Nardi (for Judo), which is right down the road from RIT. My Sensei will be teaching there, and for $65/month you can go as many times as you would like per week, and practice any of their martial arts programs: BJJ, Judo, Iaido, Kendo, or Kapap. I am very excited. Also, I have spoken to two professors, Dr. Lea Michelle, and Dr. Jeremy Cody about research opportunities, and I think that I have decided to start research in the Organic department with Dr. Cody because I will have the chance to be the first to start the project. And being the attention hog that I am, I will get all of his attention and training in the area of synthetic organic chemistry. My goal will be to discover why a synthetic molecular chooses to do what it is doing (which is very strange and completely new/mysterious to the scientific community). And that is as basic as I can put it…haha…more info to come when I’m published :P.

Also, two more things everyone should know:

1) I decided to give up swimming in order to pursue bigger dreams. In the end, I realized that dropping four seconds, going to Nationals to compete, and breaking a school record or two would not help me in the long run when it comes time to start a career and a family. In the end, I realized that coming to college opened up many more avenues for me to explore hobbies I have never been able to before, and that if I did not take advantage of these opportunities, I would be regretful in the end. Such hobbies are Judo, Archery, and undergraduate research. There is only so much time in a day, and I calculated that I would not be able to commit to swimming as well. Especially not when I am also looking for an on-campus job to help with tuition…which I currently do not have.
2) I am working with the Journal of Chemical Education to publish the research that I did in high school on vanilla. I plan to use my Thanksgiving break to prepare a magazine article for the journal. I was told that my material is definitely publishable…I am very excited!

That’s all for now! Stay tuned for more periodic updates than this one!

Terrible News

I just got back from a mandatory floor meeting...

I learned that one of the upperclass boys residing in the double two doors down from me passed away this week.  I never knew Nick, but this news has brought me great sorrow.  I am not sure if it is the shock, or my empathy for those who knew him; nevertheless, it is a tragedy that no one should have to endure.  My condolences go to everyone who is grieving, especially Nick's  family, and his roommate, Chris.

This news has made me realize something that I think everyone should take the time to think about.  I realize now in this moment that life is more of a blur than I had ever imagined.  All I remember about Nick was that his door was always open and his room was always full of energy and loud noises, and that whenever I walked by, Chris and Nick would be gaming on their computers or cheering over the present soccer/football game.  I recognize that before I may have cast judgement upon them, thinking that they were a bunch of goofs or computer nerds who didn't leave their room very often...and when I think about it now, I am thankful that Nick made lots of noise down the hall...it means he was having fun, and this has taught me a great deal of tolerance and understanding.  Do not get me wrong, I never thought negatively of him or his roommate, but I never took the time to go ask what all the raucous was about...Life's a blur...One day Nick was yelling at his TV screen, the next, his room is empty...and none of us knew until it was too late.  On a campus of some 15,000 students, there will be death...but it will never come easily.  Someone so young should live to complete their education and pursue their goals...Life's a blur because when you don't stop to look around you...the next moment, things have changed, and people two doors down the hall from you have passed away.

Rest In Peace Nick Murray.