Monday, February 7, 2011

A Change of Scenery

NCSU Belltower
There's the old saying that the more things change the more they stay the same. Well, things have definitely changed. Since last November 1st, I was accepted to NC State, lost my car due to a broken timing belt, road an Amtrak train for the first time to Charlotte, experienced what can only be considered a clusterfuck of a college orientation, registered for classes, and began to make a name for myself in the new environs of a major four year research university. It is sort of surprising how NOT overwhelmed I have been thus far.

I've been attending classes for a month now, and I find that the work load is, so far, about even with what I had come to expect at Wake Tech. Gone are the expectations of a written paper and an oral presentation for every class, only to be replaced with an expectation for a lot more reading and independent homework assignments. The biggest adjustment has been the relative claustrophobia which I've experienced. The buses to school and back have been packed, as have been the 200 seat auditorium classes, the campus food courts and coffee shops, and even the library.

DH Hill, NC State's main library, seems to have undergone the biggest transformation since my brief attendance at State over a decade ago. It felt as though I'd stepped through a Stargate and exited into another world the first time I returned to DH Hill! There is now an area called "The Learning Commons" which is filled with computers (PCs and Macs), touch screen monitors, and even video game consoles where students can play Xbox 360 and Wii games. In addition to books and research materials, the library now lends out laptops, digital cameras, calculators, and GPS devices! There's even a coffee shop and ice cream parlor in DH Hill now. Traditionally, I've been library averse, however with all the reading I am expected to keep up with now, combined with the fantastic amenities, I find that I am spending ALOT of time at DH Hill these days.

One matter of a personal note about DH Hill is that there is a homeless woman who lives in the library. This isn't so surprising, as the library is open 24 hours a day. The surprising part is that I know her name because she was Ex's girlfriend prior to my relationship with Ex. I liked Homeless Girl alright, but she was put off by the relationship of Ex and myself. Once she realized that Ex had moved on, Homeless Girl distanced herself from us. For some reason, I've always felt bad about that. I feel like the situation exacerbated her homelessness, since she had occasionally slept over at Ex's place as an alternative to being out on the streets. (Note: Homeless Girl wasn't homeless when she and Ex began dating. However, Homeless Girl fell into a deep depression and fell into an economic spiral which sent her to live on the street once Ex could no longer support her financially or emotionally.) I've thought about buying Homeless Girl a sandwich and coffee from the coffee shop, but I never do. As it stands, she ignores me, and I've done the same. Maybe I'm the only one, but I think it is fascinating to see the juxtaposition of how the two of us responded to being dumped by Ex, and how our two disparate paths somehow led us to the same place, though for very different reasons.

I suppose the greatest change in my personal experience at NC State versus Wake Tech is that I can genuinely feel my self-esteem rising. Finally getting accepted, after my THIRD attempt, and becoming a part of the Psychology program makes me feel like I'm now on my way to achieving my long term career goals. The irony, though, is that now that I've become part of the Psych program I've discovered that my goal is even farther away than anticipated. I will have as much as NINE YEARS more of school before I will be able to finish my Ph.D. in Psychology and become a professor. Initially, I had hoped to only spend four or five years getting my Ph.D. after getting my Bachelors, but I've been told it is not uncommon for it to take up to seven years since NC State's Graduate School encourages its Psych students to get their Master's concurrently with their Ph.D. This ends up extending the length of time for completion, however I have been told that since NC State is a research university most, if not all, of the cost of Graduate School can be paid for with research grant money. Supposedly, I would even get a stipend of about $15,000 a year to live on, which is more than I'm getting now!

Now, if I could just find a cute girl who would let me conduct filthy, filthy experiments on her, I'd have everything I need in life!

Have fun and keep living life... or some approximation thereof.

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