Third week of my sophomore year has ended, save the dregs of homework that I've tracked into fourth week, and it’s so strange to see prospective students that my floormates hosted last year in my social dance class or to see the students in my New Student Week group hosting prospective students themselves. Weren’t you a prospie yesterday? I’ve turned into a “grumpy sophomore” (term courtesy of a fellow sophomore) whose weekends are largely spent in perpetual sweatpants mode. I try not to forget where I was a year ago, but I harp on my dining hall workers. Even though I was nervously dropping pizzas and sleeping through shifts (only once though) not so long ago. It’s so weird being someone’s boss, someone somewhere other than the bottom. What?
The ways my first year changed me are obvious, though (even though I kept a lot of my little foibles; this past week I heard awkwardness described as an admissions requirement here and was comforted). I listen to first-year students talk with earnest certainty about their major and life plans and I wonder how many of them will have their worlds turned upside down by the time they’re in my place. I entered Carleton with adamant certainty that I was headed to medical school and then to save the world or something, and to that end I took a really science-heavy curriculum. But Carleton got in my way. Carleton made me ask myself if I was really getting all I could get out of my experience here by stacking biology and chemistry classes on top of each other in my haste to get ahead on the pre-med track.
Learning about the world on that level continues to be eye-opening as I work my way through Organic Chemistry I this term (fun fact, the two Orgo I professors met while students at Carleton, went to UC Berkeley for their doctorates, and then eventually came back to Carleton, and somewhere along the way they married each other). Branching out to learning on a more sociological level has worked out well for me, though. I’m also in Cross-Cultural Psychology and Intro to Educational Studies, and it’s refreshing to talk about how interesting and compelling humans are to study (on a higher level than atoms and molecules).
The cross-cultural psych class definitely informs what I’m learning in Ed Studies. For example, studies have found that when black students were asked to identify their race on a demographic questionnaire before taking a standardized test, they performed significantly worse than other black students who were not made to think about their race before taking the test. I’d always been one to champion personal accountability for success or failure (and even to have blamed poor people for their situation with a where-there’s-a-will-there’s-a-way attitude probably courtesy of having read Stone Fox too many times in my youth, if anyone cares), but never again after reading terribly depressing memoirs and an ethnography about how society’s structural constraints have turned the American dream into a lie for so many people. How can I have an opinion when I don’t know everything? Have you ever thought about education like this?
Anyway, I feel like people at big universities learn there to how to be successful in the conventional sense--climbing the social ladder, making a lot of money, being at the top. From what I’ve seen, most people at Carleton are most interested in learning about how to be happy and live well, which I love. My point is that after branching out, I feel like school is helping me to grow as a person, and not just by challenging me with mind-frying problem sets and lab reports. I talk about learning the value of the liberal arts, but then again (again), my next door neighbor is overloading with 24 credits (most people have 18--three 6-credit classes--like me)--he’s taking a notoriously difficult Physics course, two math courses, and a political science course, and he seems content. To each his/her own?
P.S. You should all check this out, it’s very very truly awesome.