Tuesday, September 2, 2008

[insert SAT vocabulary]

With the last gasp of Romanticism, the quelling of its florid uprising against the vapid formalism of one strain of the Enlightenment, the dimming of its yearning for the imagined grandeur of the archaic, and the dashing of its too sanguine hopes for a revitalized, fulfilled humanity, the horror of its more lasting, more Gothic legacy has settled in, distributed and diffused enough, to be sure, that lugubriousness is recognizable only as languor, or as a certain sardonic laconicism disguising itself in a new sanctification of the destructive instincts, a new genius for displacing cultural reifications in the interminable shell game of the analysis of the human psyche, where nothing remains sacred.

That's one sentence. A bit scary to look at eh? What's scarier?

I used to write like that in high school.


We were talking in my comm classes today the important and modern prevalence of business writing versus academic writing. Academic writing according to how I used to do it was basically to dump the wordiest sentences on a page. I loved using big words. I used them correctly, but man my papers were so boring to read! Even scarier? I genuinely loved writing in this style and read it with pleasure.

When I came to college, there was a semester in which I was pre med and took courses that didn't require a lot of writing. So when I switched to pre comm then next semester (and that itself is a story for another time), I suddenly had to start writing papers again. I was worried that my writing deproved over a year, so I dug out some of my best high school papers and started analyzing my old style.

I found my attention wandering within three sentences, was annoyed that I used every single word in my vocabulary every time I wrote, and thought that I really sucked at writing now because I was not in the least bit interested in the way I used to write.

I couldn't be further from the truth. Coming to college, I was really exposed to a variety of writing styles, most notably business writing. In business writing, there's often no formal structure. None of that thesis, three supporting paragraphs and then conclusion rule. The goal is to be as direct, conversational (without slang or internet talk of course) and easily legible. I had gotten used to reading like this and really preferred, so had a nasty shock when my illusions of high school essay grandeur were shattered.

My papers look more like how I write on this blog, but still more formal -- can't seem to shake off that formal tone with some of the phrases I use, and perhaps that's a good thing. But I've definitely stopped regurgitating SAT vocab everytime I wrote something, and take no more pride in turning out two page monstrosities. In high school, two pages was the length of one paragraph. Single spaced. *facepalm* I know, I was insane.

first few weeks of school.

I decided to turn a comment on my last entry into another post regarding the first few weeks of school. The first few weeks are definitely overwhelming. All of a sudden I was nobody in a sea of people, struggling to remember building names, campus layout, homework, orientation sessions, and of course, the tens and thousands of names of people who I'd vaguely recognize... but not really.

Homesick? Surprisingly not. At least, I kept myself too busy to be homesick. I dived headfirst into every club that interested me (and somehow split myself into three different people, I swear!). College academics is a whole different ballgame -- this was definitely a big distraction. I might have said this before, but the thing is, professors won't care if you do your reading. They won't care if you do your homework. You'll just flunk the midterm and consequently receive a really bad grade. And when you do, the professor won't be running after you asking you what extra credit they can offer, they'll just put that grade down on your paper. For me, the way they tested was also completely different, it's different unique to each professor's style and took quite a bit of getting used to.

Names. Ah names. I met so many people those first couple weeks that I struggled for months afterwards to get everyone down. There were people in my suite, people in my classes, people in my clubs, random people on the street, friends of people I'd just met.. etcetc.

I will admit that I felt lonely the first month or two of college. I was separated from my long time friends, yet everyone seemed to take instantly to each other. Sometimes I felt I was the biggest loser on earth with no friends. Don't worry if you feel this way, it's natural. Don't panic, take your time. The people you bond to in those first few weeks may not be people you hang out with in later years. When second semester rolled around, I looked at some of my friends and realized we were on completely opposite ends of the personality spectrum. Sometimes your initial friendships are based on mutual fear in this new environment. It's confusing and disheartening, but don't worry. You'll be fine, it'll pass.

Buildings and campus layout? Best way to identify a first year is if they walk up to you and ask where to find something. That's fine, welcome to UVA! However, please pay attention when I tell you. I had a first year start walking away from me when I started talking. (Eh? Did you really want my advice?) I also had someone who made me repeat my instructions seven times. I counted. Seven times. Don't worry if you have to ask someone else on the way there!

Mandatory orientation sessions were a bit annoying. Yes ma'am, I won't play with the fire alarm. Yes sir, I understand that UVa won't tolerate racial discrimination, and that I should report any incident in which I feel uncomfortable in. I felt that UVa made us go to so many sessions because they really wanted us to understand that although we were on our own, it wasn't a dog eat dog world. If we needed help, it was only a phone call or link away. Some sessions though, such as Different Voices: Common Threads really touched me. For those unfamiliar with this, it's when people in the minorities get up stage and share their stories with the new first year class. In my year, there was an Islamic girl who got up stage and shared how she was a victim of hate crimes after 911. People would destroy her homework, throw her lunch away, graffiti on her desk, steal her gym clothes and leave her lovely little hate notes to find in her belongings. (I was amazed at how vicious middle schoolers could be). I'll admit, I had tears in my eyes at the end of her story. At that moment, I was so happy to be a part of a community that was so accepting that this girl was willing to share her background and story to the world. By doing so she risked becoming victim to the same hate crimes again, but she believed in the UVa community so much that she was willing to get on stage and show people that the meaning of minority wasn't limited to skin color, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, or cultural background.

That turned into a much longer posting about orientation than I had meant it to be, and I'd actually meant to write about something else as well.. on to the next topic!