My first week at a Division I top-tier research university started with, of all things, a day off on Monday.
Tuesday, however, started with me getting up early, making the bus on time, getting off at the right stop, and hoofing it to my first class. I had looked on a map, and had a route figured out-- but didn't realize that my route was under construction. So I had to improvise, adapt, overcome, and go a different way. The different way turned out to be shorter and took less time.
I ran into some friends from my community college classes who also transferred, and I met my sponsor from the campus veterans group. It's nice to have people you know to drink coffee with between classes. I also have a student veterans group pizza/soda meeting on the schedule this week, so I have the beginning of an on-campus social life.
I decided to take a one credit "seminar for transfer students" this semester as well. It's a group study class that meets once a week, and gives you insights on the resources that are available to an undergraduate student at a large research university. It reminds me a little of group therapy, but in a good way.
I think, at the end of one week, I'm feeling a little overwhelmed and a little out of sync. Having Monday off meant the class schedule (especially lectures vs discussion sections) was off kilter. Homework isn't really started yet, so it's difficult to set a schedule based on what needs to be done. Last semester was easier to manage right away, since I was in the same building all day. Here, I leave the building and have to think about where I'm going to go. I live far enough away that I have to take the bus-- I can't just go back to the dorm. (There are in fact so many places to sit and study and drink coffee, that some days I can't decide which one I want to head towards.)
I don't know quite how to fit into most of my classes; I think that's because I missed some of my discussion sections last week due to the holiday. It's hard to get to know people in a large lecture hall. It's harder still because, well, I'm old enough that the kid sitting next to me could be my son or daughter. I act younger than a lot of forty somethings-- or at least I think so-- but I know I'm different.
I feel the separation the most in my upper level computer science class. My classmates are geeks-- there's a reason they're here. In geekdom, you're generally not taken very seriously until you prove you know kung-fu, and while I do know kung-fu, I haven't had the chance to show it off. Geeks don't usually discriminate by age or sex-- but geek respect is earned, not handed out freely just because you managed to show up.
It's that feeling of being, well, unproven, that's bothering me after the first week. Computer science is a wonderful place, in that when you do good work, you are recognized for doing so and you have a field where you belong. The highest honor someone can bestow on you is to say to someone else "That old dude? He knows his shit."
I didn't expect to reach that point the first week, and I don't expect to be there the second week, either. It took me a lot of work and time to make it this far, so it makes sense that ubergeek status will take some time to reach as well.
And a lot of coffee.