The First Day of the Rest of My Life


A chronicle of my first day at Arizona State University. By: Trevor Freeman.

THE STORY
Monday was a very important day. It was the 21st of August, 2006. It was also my first day of school this year. Since December I have been worrying about what ASU would be like, and what would happen the first day. Well, things could have been a lot worse than they were.

Because I live so far away, I have to wake up at 6:30am now. There is barely enough time to shower and eat breakfast before hitting the road at 7am. Fighting my way through traffic is kind of a new experience. I've never had a morning commute like this before. Driving to community college took only twenty minutes, but this school takes about seventy minutes to get to in the mornings. The cars crawl along at 25mph, stop-and-go almost the whole way. This is on the freeway, folks. It's frustrating.

Parking is a nightmare all of its own. The best lot I could afford to park in was 59 North. For two hundred dollars, I had expected it to be much better. In fact, I'm a considerable distance away from the main buildings of the school. I am so close to Tempe Town Lake that I could throw a rock in the water from my parking spot. My first class is at the complete opposite end of campus near the Gammage Auditorium, a good twenty to twenty-five minute walk away.

The first class of the day is Precalculus. My instructor, Jingjin (pronounced Jing-Jing) is from China. When I saw her for the first time, I thought she was a fellow student. She is very small and young-looking, and her English is pretty good. The class has maybe five guys and fifteen girls. It's the smallest class I have.

Fifty minutes pass and it's time to move on. Walking back across campus in another ten minutes is quite a workout, especially with a heavy backpack and the 106* degree weather. Lots of people are walking. Some ride bikes, some ride longboards. Apparently regular skateboards are not "college" enough, longboards are the unspoken standard. Have you ever tried to ride one? From my own experience, I think they are very difficult to maneuver around turns and they flex too much in the middle. I can't imagine riding one to class every day with a sack full of books throwing off my balance.

I arrive at the Physical Sciences building and find my next class. It's General Chemistry for Engineers, the lecture part. The room is very large, and almost every seat is filled. The TA hands out the syllabus and the teacher goes over it. I calculate the number of seats per row and multiply by the number of rows in the room. A good 250 people are in my Chemistry class. I don't have my book yet. We are introduced to "The Demo Man" who helps the teacher do demonstrations.

He holds a burning candle very closely to a balloon which is filled with hydrogen gas. It explodes in a ball of flame and makes a loud noise, waking everyone up completely. The instructor showed us the lab manual that "you all should have by now." I made a note to get one from the bookstore after class. It's time to move on to the next class already!

This was where things got tricky. My schedule said my History class was in the College of Design building. I went there and found the room, but it had a notice that the room had been reassigned. The map in my pocket was my best friend as I looked for the new building I had to find. It was a few buildings south of my current location, and I started walking.

There are thousands and thousands of people at ASU. The guys wear their cargo shorts and their flip flops while riding their longboards. The girls have their Razr phones stuck to one ear and a cup of Starbucks in their hand. Everyone has an iPod with the trademark white earbuds. Don't have one yet? Don't worry, there is an Apple store on campus that sells them. Everyone wears sunglasses, especially the girls who wear the oversize brown-tinted ones like all their friends on Myspace wear. Everyone at ASU wears ASU-logo clothing like shirts, shorts, pants, jackets, hats, and so on. Heck, I even bought one. Ten bucks for a shirt seemed like a good deal to me. Everyone here looks the same.

At last, I found the Coor Hall and my next classroom. The teacher was dressed completely in black. Black hair and beard, black shirt with a black tie, black pants, black shoes, and black socks. He was already going over the classroom procedures when I walked in. He sat in a motorized wheelchair which was the quietest I have ever heard. He rolled back and forth while he talked. His words were very clear and he was very knowledgable about his subjects. During the next hour, I listened intently. He was a wonderful speaker and I think I will enjoy his class. The chairs were incredibly comfortable in the very new-looking classroom. The guy next to me had his laptop open and was browsing Myspace the whole time.

After this class, I had a 45 minute break until the next and final class. Wandering around campus, I went to check out the library. It was large and full of more people with their laptops and iPods. Back outside, I ventured over to the Student Union in search of some lunch. The line for Chick-Fil-A had about 40 people waiting in front of me, and that was the shortest line of any of the restaurants. I ate my sandwich and waffle fries while walking to the next class.

Behind the Student Union is the WP Carey School of Business. It was where I would find my Microeconomics class. The classroom was larger than the auditorium at my high school. It could easily hold five hundred people, the teacher informed us. She seems tough but very knowledgable. She called macroeconomics false and informed us her class was the most important one we would ever take. The teacher made a few good jokes and told a funny story related to economics. She was a very good speaker with a clear voice and a steady pace. No "ums" or "ahhs" or any weird pauses. I think I will enjoy her class too.

After class was over, I headed to the bookstore to get my Lab Manual for Chemistry. Because of theft, no backpacks are allowed in the bookstore. They must be checked in and checked out using a system of colored tickets. They took my bag after I waited in line a good ten minutes. The bookstore was jammed with all kinds of people juggling armloads of textbooks and ASU-branded clothing. I found my book and waited another twenty minutes in line to pay, listening to a really old Smash Mouth song on the store's PA system. I was feeling pretty exhausted by this time.

At 1:30pm, my day was done. I trudged back to the car and almost melted upon getting inside. My skin was covered with a glaze of sweat as I cranked the A/C and headed for Quiktrip for something cold to drink. The first day was over.

Every one of my teachers is using the online Blackboard software this year. I've heard of it but never had to use it before. Teachers can use it to assign homework, give messages and information to students, and students can also submit their assignments over the computer. Every teacher says "email is the best way to contact me." Tests are all done with Scantrons. Everything is done with computers and it's all very high-tech. Maybe someday students will be able to earn their degrees without ever stepping foot inside a classroom.

The students at ASU look mostly the same. The campus is large and none of the buildings look alike. Everything is chaotic, from the parking to the classes to the lunch line to the sidewalks. At ASU, you don't feel like a person. You feel like another face in the crowd, nameless and unimportant. You're a number. Wait in line and wait your turn. You can't take a piss in the men's room without standing in a huge line. There are people everywhere.

On every electrical box, lamp post, park bench, street sign, building, tree, message board, or bike rack is a sticker for some band you've never heard of and a link to their Myspace page. All over campus there are ads for some indoor go-kart place. There are endless ads for cheap housing, cheap pizza, cheap beer, cheap apartments, and other ways to save money for us college kids. It's almost like a giant shopping mall instead of a school.

Here is a rundown of my expenses so far:
$25 application fee (twice)
$25 Sun Card fee
$2380 for 13 credit hours
$161 for Math and Economics textbooks
$41 for Chem Lab manual
$27 for books on eBay (incl shipping)

$2684 spent thus far, not including gas money and lunch money.
How am I going to do this every day until December?

-Trevor Freeman
17 September 2006

Be sure to check out my photos from around the campus in the ASU photo gallery.

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