i've spent the last few weeks trying to rope myself up onto bevo's back. (bevo is a longhorn bull, the mascot of the university of texas at austin.) registering, figuring out finances, buying books, coping with the physical shock of waking up at 6:30am.
my first impressions of the school:
mostly positive. on friday 1/3, i went down to campus to buy books and pick up a parking pass. away from the carnival atmosphere of the drag, the campus had a chilly, quiet austerity. the late afternoon sun gave white granite of the UT tower a rosy tint. there was a feeling of walking in the mountains, or of visting the preserved ruins of a greek city. a week later i was walking out of GE 207K, a course that gives engineering majors extra practice with differential equations, east on 24th street. a lot of natural science buildings are on 24th. a beautiful asian woman walked towards me, and for a second i recognized that we were in the same place: happy with the class we just left, relieved at having a smart instructor, a future. i could have fallen at her feet and asked her to marry me. i don't mean to disgust my readers, here, and i will get to the less flattering aspects of undergraduate life at 31 in a second...
i was a full time administrative employee at UT for four years. i worked east of IH-35 for a year, and then transferred to IC2 which is located along Lamar. i rarely needed to go to the center of campus, and when i did there wasn't much reason to celebrate. as a student, pursuing an engineering degree, the place now seems enormous, exciting. a large Asian population attends UT: india, china, korea. many schools are highly ranked. there is the sense of a thriving community, quite apart from Austin's general community. the smartest young adults from places like madras, beijing, seoul, walk around in groups having dialogues that may never be heard or appreciated by people in Austin. the contrast between this community and middle class white austin is sharp enough; it's mind blowing to consider that communities east of the expressway are even more insulated. thankfully, one of my professors, Mario Gonzalez, discussed "the digital divide." but UT, as an elite place, creates divides upon divides. students only stay at UT for a few years, and they have no time to contribute to Austin.
i must brag about the resources at UT. a UT professor, Yale N. Patt, wrote my intro to computing textbook which is amazing. in february i'll attend a meeting of the amateur radio club (ARC) which, unlike typical ham radio clubs, has real antennas and satellites to play with. the ECE building has wireless labs, digital design labs, biomedical equipment labs, etc.
on the downside, engineering students are plain looking, plain acting people. in my large introductory EE sections I'm detecting a lack of healthy enthusiasm. it's 85+ percent male, everyone's dressed the same, hair is cropped short (with a few notable exceptions), and many guys almost seem angry. making friends will be a challenge. engineers try to show that they're emotionally simple but sophisticated in terms of technial expertise. i at least look the part. my hair is short and my clothes are nondescript. i fight notions that i'm somehow more talented and creative than those around me, because they probably aren't true.