Three years ago I started school at the University of Montevallo, and now that I’m due to graduate in May, I’ve been thinking some about the last few years, and decided that as much as I love college, I’m glad to be almost done with my undergrad career. Why? Well, I’ll outline the reasons for my love-hate relationship with academic life after high school.
I love the environment of a university, but especially this university. Especially when I was dating someone who went to school in Tuscaloosa, at the University of Alabama, and I would visit, there wasn’t a week that went by after my return to Montevallo that I didn’t think or express aloud, I’m SO glad I went to Montevallo. It’s not that I think Alabama’s a bad school; however, I couldn’t handle having to leave super-early for classes because of the huge campus, or dealing with such crowded parking (and oh my GOD is the parking crappy at UA), or not having a personal relationship with the majority of my professors. I definitely feel like I benefit more academically from a small class size, as I don’t know if I’ve had more than 35 students in any of my classes, and if I have, it was Geology, a class offered for a gen-ed requirement.
Additionally, smaller class size encourages more discussion on reading material or lecture topics, depending of course on the professor but almost always present in Montevallo classes. Students readily ask questions and are often encouraged to offer input or criticism; sometimes class veers off-topic because of the path a conversation took, but that can be just as enriching as a lecture, if not more. UM’s classes, overall, really do teach one how to think critically, and I know for a fact that I think far more critically than I did in high school at JCIB, although I’m sure the foundation for that was laid there. Still, I think I’ve really flourished in college as a critical thinker, and it is no doubt because of the encouraging and open professors I’ve had.
Another thing that bothers me about Alabama that we don’t have the problem of here at UM is the lack of advisor. I got lucky with my advisor, as he’s one of the most encouraging and sincere professors on this campus (as evidenced by his acceptance of Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award at Founder’s Day this year), and one thing that I’ll always remember is that the week I was out because I was spending the night at the hospital by my grandmother’s side, I was supposed to meet with him for registration-advising for the next semester, and obviously had to cancel. I let him know via email, and he responded back with some advising on which classes I should take — through email. Even a small gesture like that kept me from probably taking unnecessary classes or going into full panic mode because I didn’t know what to take.
He also informed me of his French Revolution class when I told him I’d taken French in high school, and through me being made aware of that course and then taking it, I quickly found out he was undoubtedly my favorite professor because of the environment he creates in his classroom. (And if I ever publish a book, he’ll definitely be one of my acknowledgments, if not the first one.) But, from what I understand, Alabama’s advising system isn’t like this, and doesn’t allow for a student to get to personally know one’s advisor. I’m sure it’s on a personal basis, too, depending on one’s advisor, but I love Montevallo’s advising system.
However, the hate-side of my relationship with college comes from being unable to read during the school year. Then again, this is probably because my concentrations are in two areas that require heavy reading and writing — history and English. I read a lot during the school year, but never stuff I pick by either random chance or ones I have on my personal list. I just never have time. For instance, my roommate let me borrow Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut, and I’m only about halfway through even though I’ve had it since the end of last semester.
“Why didn’t you read it over the summer?” you might ask. Well, I wanted to read Dearly Devoted Dexter more, and work and the internet just kind of replaced reading for me (especially the internet, which is such a trap). I also didn’t read a Star Trek novel Charity lent me, or the X-Men comics she lent me. Reading just fell out of habit for me, I suppose. Honestly, when I read Lolita last spring semester during the term, I felt extremely accomplished and excited that I read something I’d been wanting to read for a long time while I still had school. The summer between my sophomore year and junior year of high school, I stayed for a week with my aunt and uncle in Dahlonega, GA, and put a sizable dent in my reading repertoire by flying through books such as Dan Brown’s collection (aside from The Da Vinci Code, which I’d read before, during the school year)
Another reason or area academics have stunted me have been in the speed of my reading. As I’ve mentioned before in my Harry Potter post, I read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the longest of the series with 870 pages, in 22 hours. Now, that’s probably not that good a thing as I don’t remember too much of the book that the movie didn’t rehash, but I used to read like crazy. When I went back to visit my elementary/middle school (as they’re one in the same, K-8), I had a conversation with my old principal that went something like–
Me: I used to get in trouble all the time for reading in classes when I wasn’t supposed to.
Him: I wish we had more kids who got in trouble for reading when they weren’t supposed to.
And it’s true. Everywhere I went, I had a book. Usually on the way to the lunchroom or really any class change, if I weren’t talking with friends, I had my “nose stuck in a book” like that Beauty and the Beast song. I wrote relentlessly in both middle and high school in classes when I wasn’t supposed to — which is probably why I didn’t do half as well as I should have in high school, that and general laziness — and I read relentlessly, too. I got in trouble on more than one occasion for reading in math class (which shows you just how much I love math — that is, very little).
I’m ashamed to say that, either with high school or college or physiologically, my inability to multitask as well, my reading speed has dropped significantly and while I still read pretty fast, it’s nothing like it used to be, and that makes me sad. I probably absorb more, but as a result I don’t get to read as many things as I’d like to. However, some of the blame I think should go to the internet, which has just gotten me out of the practice of reading as much. And yes, I’m a huge proponent of real books as opposed to online reading. There’s just something about holding a book that makes it awesome, and I think online reading (at least of books) takes the ‘magic’ out of it (as dumb as that may sound). I think things like the Kindle are cool, because it offers a wide range of books you wouldn’t have on hand normally, but I think nothing can compare to reading a physical book with physical pages you can turn.
Things I also can’t do as much of with school weighing on me that I don’t feel like talking about more because I’ve pretty much exhausted myself on the stuff above include: crocheting, video gaming, drawing/painting, writing creatively, and sleeping (the latter of which work will still impair, but it’s worth it for the money, I guess…right?).
So, all of that having been said, because of the way the GRE scoring works, in order for me to get funding for grad school at the grad school I want, I have to take a year off between graduating in May and getting into and going to grad school. During that year I plan on catching up on reading things such as The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold), The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde), The Brief History of the Dead (Kevin Brockmeier), Lullaby (Chuck Palahniuk), the sequels to Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest, collectively known as the ‘Sevenwaters Trilogy’ which are Son of the Shadows and Child of the Prophecy — aka books I’ve been meaning to read since I fell in love with Daughter of the Forest in eighth grade — and finally finish Kushiel’s Dart (Jacqueline Carey) and the other books in the Kushiel’s Legacy series. There are more, but I plan on starting with these.
However, I’m going to miss college terribly. I’ll miss having to walk only two minutes to get relatively-healthy already-made food, or lying out on one of the quads and reading or listening to music and soaking up the sun, or going to work out at a ‘free’ gym five minutes away, or camping out in the library, or the satisfaction of getting back a paper with a good grade on it. Plus, after graduating, I’m just one step closer to the Real World (and not that show I used to watch back in middle school) and Life. And that’s a scary thought.
As I get closer to graduation, I’ll make a post of things to remember from my college experience, so that by probably even next year, I’ll be able to remember things I would have otherwise forgotten.
College, I’ll miss you, but in a way, I won’t.