What does it mean to no longer be a freshman? Too many good conversations have been ended when I disclosed that this was my first year in college and I was only taking high school level classes. Discussions about the field of business, good and bad professors, techniques to master the varied requirements of college living. As a freshman I couldn’t be expected to know much about that. Typical freshman party all the time and drink more beer in a week than real people consume in a year; the neighbors went through 54 30-packs in 32 weeks of school. And they’re all underage. For over 25% of freshmen, the first year is also their last year of college.
It was interesting to me to observe the social scheme of things; who people ate with, who they hung out with, how colors and races mingled. What I found was disturbing in that, while Americans are the most liberal, they are also the most closed minded when it comes to making friends and mixing colors and races. Americans are saturated with popular culture and that’s pretty much the extent of their knowledge or interests. International students and those unfamiliar with American pop culture need another basis of community which they find in religion, sports, and academic topics. Although Americans are able to make plenty of warm introductions and speak kind words to foreigners, they rarely follow through on their promises and foreign students become distrustful of the kind words of the American.
While reflecting on my experiences, I found out about a book written by a NAU professor who anonymously became a student here and attempted to immerse herself in student culture by living in a dorm, dining on campus, and becoming active in student organizations. I read the book last week and found it interesting and thought provoking. *My Freshman Year *by Rebekah Nathan (pseudonym) is the book she published describing her experiences. The study took place in 2002 before the time of Facebook and online collaboration that is commonplace today. Still, many of her observations were similar to mine, although NAU was a much smaller place in those days.
Reflection is perhaps something I have learned in my first year. Assignments often include a 1-page personal reflection paper on how the assignment affected me, what I learned, and what I would like to see done differently. Disciplining myself to write a reflection was a bit difficult at first because I was done with the assignment, sometimes sick and tired of it, and wanted to leave it in the past. But reflecting back on it in a formal written way helped me to better quantify the underlying concepts and motives and look beyond the topic of the project to how I could apply what I learn to all areas of life.
My project today as a sophomore is to write two essays describing two different theories of moral philosophy, their practicalities and shortcomings, and why one theory might be better than another. As when I was a freshman, it is still hard to get started writing so I must write a blog post first to loosen up my brain and keyboard fingers. If I complete these assignments in time I hope to go for a spin in the hills on the bike to somehow make better use of perfect summer weather.
This week I’ve had a lot of time to ride. Sunday afternoon I went for a leisurely trip part way up the mountain on dry and dusty trails. The soil here is very different from the eastern trails I am used to; the dirt has a very lightweight lava-based composition, with lava rock on the surface (the stuff we used to buy for the gas grill) making loose, abrasive, and slippery riding conditions. Everywhere I go a cloud of dust follows, so I am brown and dirty at the end of the day. Wednesday I found some different trails south of town that follow the rim of Walnut Canyon. That was a very impressive ride, both scenery-wise and having a lot of ups and downs to negotiate. I took a lot of out and back side trips to viewpoints and other places of interest; it ended up being a 30 mile ride, mostly on singletrack trails through canyon and pine forests. Last night I went for an hour-long ride on a trail that climbed to the top of a nearby ‘hill’ that is 800 feet high, followed the ridge for several miles and dropped back into town, making an awesome 12 mile twilight ride. It was also my first time on that loop, but I plan to do it many more times for the brutal climb and nice scenery I can find there. Yesterday I played tennis most of the afternoon with my roommate; that is the one activity that he enjoys, providing we use the indoor courts where the sun cannot penetrate. Good times, but I definitely need more practice.
And, I got a real apartment finally. In August I move to McKay Village, an on-campus apartment complex. No longer will I have to use a community bathroom, laundry, and kitchen. After only a week of dorm living I am ready to move back into an apartment. Off-campus housing is still much too expensive for my student budget. Rent is nearly double the $600/month students pay to live on-campus. Flagstaff housing prices make Pennsylvania living seem cheap in comparison. Tiny 1200 sf. homes prices here start around $260k. Ok, enough rambling, I need to get those essays written…