AU vs Harvard and stuff in between

1. I didn't notice before, but my last post was my 300th milestone. :O I've been at this for quite a while it appears. So, in any case, welcome to the 301st post on this blog hahaha

2. I am waiting for about 10am to have breakfast today because the mail room doesn't open til then and I have a package. Hence the blogging. Actually I have two midterm exams tomorrow and my time may be slightly better served studying for those, but I thought I'd update since someone asked me to blog about this topic (maybe as regular decision deadline for college is in 1.5 months, early decision's just passed and people wanna reconsider their options). So, without further adieu, I'll try to answer the prompt as best as I can, though keep in mind that these judgements and experiences are purely my own based on my year thus far, and everyone's college experience is different :)


Okay, so first off when comparing tertiary education, we probably want to look at academics. Note that I've chosen to major in Computer Science here where the ranking is supposedly lower. Also I was in Engineering for a semester and a half at AU. This is because it's stupid to choose to study something just because the school you're going to is good at it, if it doesn't line up with your interests. But wait, you say, why not go to a college where the CS program is stronger? Because Liberal Arts education. Something that really attracted me to study in the US was a lack of knowledge of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life (and quite honestly I'm still lost now). I was interested in a lot of things during high school -- in my senior year I took classes in English, Math, Chemistry, Physics, Art History, French and Painting. So yes I kind of liked a lot of things haha. At liberal arts college, you get 4 years of a much broader education: for instance, here, my requirements for majoring in CS only involves 12-14 classes (note a standard schedule of 4 classes per semester x 4 years = 32 classes total, so you still have 20-18 classes left after finishing major requirements). Even if I were to minor in something, that's 4-6 classes, leaving me with 12-16. Of course, there are more inflexible paths: a BS engineering track will probably land you with 20 classes requirement, but that's still 12 left for gen ed requirements (we have 8, in varying genres of fields) and electives. Btw the degree I am doing is a Bachelor of Arts, and I'm unsure right now if I want to continue study after graduating and go get a graduate degree. It really depends what opportunities crop up in the next 4 years.

That kind of flexibility isn't something I would have had at AU. Engineering is pretty much a set track (though I was conjoining with BA), as far as I know most people have space for the 2 gen eds required and that's pretty much it unless they want to do summer school or add a 5th course each semester. Note that on the BA/BE track I was doing I would have graduated in 5 years instead of 4, and I was taking 5 courses both semesters while I was there. Also note that the AU degree is intended to be vocational -- I would have been able to start working in the engineering industry right after graduation with a BE (and in fact not many choose to stay to do a graduate degree).

Note 21 contact hours at AU vs 12.5 per week, yet I still have more work here

In terms of workload -- it's definitely heftier here. With only 4 classes this semester I am still doing more work than I have ever done before in my life (excluding art in high school), and I have a relatively light workload compared to most other people (actually this may be a testament to how lazy I have been in the rest of my life, but let's not get into that right now). Problem sets are weekly, with one being due on the same day the next one comes out (generalization, definitely varies between classes but just my exp), some classes have 2 or 3 problem sets due per week. When I was at AU there were some days where I went home and didn't do any work for the rest of the day, and as far as I remember there was no regular homework due ever, to the point where even if it was irregular I was unlikely to do it due to lack of routine, plus it would be something like a static equilibrium question to do overnight or a set of tutorial questions that we'd be going over again in class anyway. That just doesn't happen here, because homework contributes toward final grades and if you slack off for a day you fall behind -- a day is worth A LOT here. There are some days where at night I have thought back to the that morning and realized how much I've accomplished, and the morning feels soooo long ago. It's a good feeling :) (except when you don't get it and you realize you slacked off too much that day aad ACTUALLY did nothing ahahahahaha Saturday 3rd November 2012 ._.)


Yay, now that the boring stuff is out of the way, something to consider is definitely the difference in college life here compared to in NZ.

Canaday. This is where I live, also known as the ugliest freshman dorm on campus (it's really not that bad)

1. We live in dorms, on campus. This really make a difference in the way you interact with people as well as what you accomplish during the day -- because transportation wastes less time, and everything is super close to get to. This also means extracurriculars run a lot later here -- Archery goes from 7pm to 9pm, and I don't mind it. Before, Badminton went until about 10pm at AU and I found that a massive nuisance (but I went anyway), just because I didn't want to go home that late from town. Something I have also done here is watched the GSL finals in the Science Center from 2am to 5am in the morning. Yes that's an extracurricular activity -- but dw it's in the weekend so it's ok, can sleep the whole day after that haha. Also, one of the reasons I never went partying in Auckland was just because getting to town and back was such a massive chore (plus parking is so hard to find) that I just didn't think it was worth the effort. Here it's a lot easier to get around, there's always people to go back to the dorms with at 1am in the morning and so I've gone to a lot more social events because of that. Definitely not every weekend though, but there are people who do. I have also still not been to a frat party or final club yet. I never went to any steins earlier this year because of the cbf-degree associated with going into town. I went clubbing ONCE in Auckland earlier this year.

2. Community and involvement. Something that comes with living on campus is the feeling of being part of a larger group. Whether it's bouncing around the 29304823 emails about club events and choosing which to go to (I attend at least 1 or 2 a week), or preparing for The Game (Harvard-Yale football this weekend what), there is just always so much going on within the bubble here. I think that sense of community is definitely lacking in the AU student body. I voted for UC here and I didn't vote for AUSA or any of those elections while i was at AU (granted, at that point I was no longer enrolled and thought it would be against morals for me to vote for something I wouldn't be part of soon). I've also joined a lot more clubs than I did before, but that may be due to quantity demanded related to price (since it costs money to join clubs at AU)... but even though I paid for KAC and stuff I never went to any events, which was a bit sad. Actually I think I should have done that, gone to a lot more student club events while I was in Auckland. I don't know if I was shy or anything like that, maybe I just thought that since I already knew people there was no real reason to go and talk awkwardly with strangers, but that's something I'd really recommend for people at AU: GET INVOLVED IN STUFF. I actually look up to the 2nd-4th years in KAC like Victor and Seb and stuff and am a bit jealous that they are so close to everyone in their organization and are so involved. I think those clubs are really essential to the college experience where ever you are. Also it's great for networking. Actually I'm not a huge fan of networking myself but there's definitely a lot of that going on here all the time.

Class photo :) See if you can spot me (hint I'm in the front row)

3. People are strangers. Something I'm sure Aucklanders experience going to AU is the fact that you go to high school with your friends and then you go to uni with your friends. Of course you meet new people, but I met more people in my first week here than I met in my whole half year at AU. Most people are strangers coming into college, because people come here from all over the US and all over the world. Something you ask when making acquaintances is "Where are you from?" whereas in Auckland it's generally assumed you're from the area, or at best Dunedin or Christchurch. That's not to say that you don't meet amazing people in AU though. Though I only met some of my Engineering friends in March this year, and we only had 4 months together before I left, we still skype and chat fairly regularly and I'd say they are actually closer to me than many of my friends I've known longer. Likewise, when you are forced to live with strangers, you grow very close very quickly -- the amount of time you spend with those around you here is continuous since there is no such thing as "going home" and avoiding all contact. It's so interesting in the first few weeks when you see a social structure forming from nothing -- friendship groups form, people move around, meet new people and hang out with them, and become really close friends overnight (literally). Something I'll call the Kun phenomenon (named after a friend who invited me over to a pizza night the day after I met him at Karaoke) is exceeedddingly common in the first few days of college here.

Hyperbolic time chamber

4. A new life. Because everyone is a stranger here, because you are entering a new environment where you will live, as if being locked into a hyperbolic time chamber for a period of time, It's as if you are starting a new life. There are no preconceptions -- nobody knows who you are. I remember in high school I wanted to leave and move at one point because I just wanted a fresh start. It's been so nice here. Also, there is no weird hierarchy that I've experienced. Those of you who know me know that I get somewhat uncomfortable when people look up to me too much or put me on some kind of pedestal because there are just so many false expectations that come out of that. It kind of got weird after I found out I got in and people in Auckland seemed to know about it even if I didn't know them personally (it was also kind of ego-inflating to know that I was kind of famous but I feel bad about that haha. At least I'm admitting that I'm self-absorbed?).  But here, everyone's an equal. It's a really nice, humbling experience. It's as if you can create yourself again from the ground up, without the pressure of expectations to change the way you grow. Like the natural recrystallization and grain growth of metal after annealing something that had been cold worked (yeah I went there chemmat 121 reference hi5 engineers).

Ayyyyy dat zebra ass (unrelated diagram of pearlite)

Actually I didn't realize until now, but this is the first time I've really felt free, for a really long time if not ever. I was an emotional wreck before I came out here (and for a long while after I got here as well). There was a time where I questioned my decision to leave at all and whether or not it was worth it to leave everything behind. I actually contemplated staying in Auckland, but I'm glad I made a leap of faith to a new experience.

5. Growth. I've definitely grown as a person (and as a metal grain, apparently) since coming here, in confidence and in ideas. Because there are so many different opinions and mindsets around me, from all different walks of life (the American population, as you should all have noticed, is greatly varied in terms of ideals as evidenced by the close election last week. Compared to the largely homogeneous liberal views of the NZ masses, there is a lot more variety here in terms of how people think the world should be etc), I've had the opportunity of hearing about issues from all different perspectives. Also people here are generally more well read and knowledgeable than me, so I've experienced a nice diffusion of knowledge from high to low concentration. Ie. I've learned a lot, it's been great. Also I'm starting to get less intimidated by authority figures; during FIP my leaders told me about how she emailed professors to ask if she could take a class -- at the time I thought it was crazy but then I did it and got into my phil class (which I was originally not placed into), so from that experience I learned the true power of the question "Is it possible?"... you should always try :)

Well it's now 12pm and I haven't done nearly enough work for tomorrow's midterm, I just skyped with Billy since it's his birthday today (Happy birthday Billy :D 21st!), so now I'll actually do some work ._. Hopefully this was helpful to some people, and if there are any other questions please feel free to facebook or email me and I'll do my best to reply, also if you want another blog detailing anything more I'd be happy to do that (I want to keep up my at least once a month updates, so any ideas of blogs would be helpful to me :P)


Anonymous said...

Just gave it a quick read-through - very interesting! Will spend more time digesting it tomorrow, when I'm done with my final-ish exam. Haha.