Sunday, January 23, 2011

From Pinole Valley to Penn

I'm sorry this reply is extremely late, but this past week has been my toughest (in terms of the work load) at Penn, and as this week is right before finals, I am finding a lot more work due than expected. I arrived back on Penn, last Sunday night, and I had a wonderful time with my relatives, and I'm kind of sad that it ended so soon, but I get to go home really soon. It's really awesome that Penn is a school some Ivy League Connection students next year will get the chance to attend, and I would not mind speaking with them.

Penn and my high school experience are different. One of the main reasons I chose Penn was it was big enough where I be anonymous if I wanted to, but have small enough class sizes where I feel I could learn more from the professors. Out of four classes, I have the best of both worlds. My math and bio lectures are close to 200 hundred people, but the recitation and lab are about 20 people. My writing seminar is 16 people and my Spanish class is 18 people. In high school, these class sizes would have been completely unheard of, and the instructors do provide individual attention. One thing I did not like about high school was that people treated me like a toddler, because of the bad examples set by some of my fellow peers, but at Penn, and I'm pretty sure at any college, they treat you like an adult. And even when you ask for help, they'll still treat you like adult. One thing that I've noticed since coming here is that if you ask for help, people will help you. In terms of academics, professors and TAs doors are always open, and if you can't make their office hours, you can email them and ask for a different time meeting. I'll admit, it's definitely a change from getting nearly straight As throughout high school to struggling with subjects that seem very easy to your peers, but it's completely fine to go ask for help. There are resources for help, especially if you look hard enough. My current professor for bio was actually complaining that she wasn't "getting enough customers."

College is definitely different from high school in the sense that you can really only rely on yourself. Honestly, I would say that college is a bit easier in the sense that you're taking less classes than you're taking in high school at once, and you do meet less often (1-3 times a week). You've just really got to learn how to manage your time, because homework is due less often, and most of the time you can't complete whole assignments in just of couple of hours, especially if you don't know how to do something and you have to go to your professor's or TA's office hours (which usually do not occur in the early hours of the morning when work gets done). You also get to take classes you like, I mean sure, there are requirements, but there are so many classes that you're bound to take something that interests you and fulfills requirements. For bigger lecture classes, professors put up their lectures online. You can skip classes without being noticed, but I strongly advise against this because sometimes the recording equipments fails, or the professor gets busy doesn't upload the lecture that you need before a test or homework is due. Also, you will probably procrastinate on watching the actual videos until its too late.

Most people think that students at an Ivy League School would be snobby, but Penn is not like that. I've found that most of the people in my classes are approachable once you start talking to them. Penn does not have as much diversity as Pinole Valley High did, but I can guarantee you can find people eerily similar, in terms of personality, to people at Pinole.

Because schedules are different at Penn everyday, you really have to plan ahead. In high school, days were always the same in terms of classes, but now you have to sit down and think about what you're going to do at a certain time. Basically, weekends have never been worth so much in terms of resting, and do not forget to rest. You will go crazy if all you do is work and study, so take breaks.

Right now, my classes are mostly review from classes I took in high school, such as biology, introduction to calculus, and Spanish. I really enjoy my Spanish class, and I feel that I'm improving and sometimes I catch myself starting to think in Spanish, which is awesome. My calculus class really is review, and I must say I'm glad that my high school calculus teacher was great at explaining everything, because sometimes I don't understand what my professor is lecturing about until we get to the last step. His explanations are good, but I think they're more oriented toward why we do things, instead of how. My biology class I would say is giving me the most trouble, and I think that's just from the fact that I'm not studying enough, so I know what I'll be doing during the Reading Days before finals. Labs are pretty fun to do, especially working with equipment we never had available in high school. My writing seminar is going well, my final portfolio for the class is due tomorrow, and I'm done with the writing requirement, and I must say that when the professor takes off points from my essays, it encourages me to do better. I can definitely see my growth as a writer since the beginning of the year.

My roommate is really great. We have classes at similar times, so our sleeping schedules aren't radically different, and we don't annoy each other. Her family is also really nice, they took me and another one of our hallmates out for some dessert when they came to visit my roommate for Thanksgiving. My hallmates are acutally a really nice and funny bunch, most of the arguments I hear are just about when music is too loud.

I guess you could say that I'm okay with my choice in Penn. It's a really good school, and I love my classes and learning, but sometimes I just get really homesick, and want to see a familiar face.


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