Monthly Archives: October 2009

Why I chose MSU

A little over two years ago, I was faced with a choice between three schools for where I would be spending my undergraduate career: University of Vermont, Michigan State University, and University of Michigan. The first school was never really an option, partially because of the cost and partial because of the available programs, so I really had a pick between two sides of a coin. I went back and forth for a while until finally deciding on MSU, which may have possibly been the best choice I’ve ever made.

What made me pick MSU over UMich, you might ask? It was a tough call, honestly, and I think it was such a tough call because I grew up worrying more about the Yale-Harvard football game, or the Syracuse-Princeton lacrosse rivalry, or any number of East Coast-oriented rivalries. I didn’t care one iota about MSU/UMich for most of my life, to the extent that I can’t recall ever wearing either school’s colors or icons. I will admit that I did have a slight UMich bias due to the fact that seemingly every adult in my neighborhood cheered for them, but at the same time I drew ‘S’s all over our driveway in chalk.

In high school, I dated a girl from a purebred UMich family. For a little under a year and a half, I had to pretend like I cared about the football season, that I cared about the MSU/UMich game, that I cared about football in general. I knew from the moment that I met her that she would be going to UMich when she graduated, and I was eventually right. My group of friends back then basically split into two upon graduation, with one-half going to MSU and the others going to UMich.

But back to my choice. After breaking up with my girlfriend, I became closer to the half that would eventually become the MSU group, as well as met some kids from a nearby high school, one of which would become my roommate for the (currently) entirety of my college career. A few of them described this program at MSU called Lyman Briggs, which they said was focused on preparing people for careers in medicine, but after a little more research I found out it was for any science major. I was seriously torn between the two schools, and even with the mental restraint against going to the same school as my ex-girlfriend, I guess I retained some of my original, minor leanings toward UMich, so I decided to visit there first.

I’m going to interrupt again for a moment, just to describe what my family thought would happen. Basically the entirety of my immediate family thought I would attend MSU, while basically the entirety of my extended family thought that I would attend UMich. I didn’t even know what I would be studying upon graduation, but my family was already drawing “battle lines” about my future fate. It was going to be a tough call either way, which is why I’m glad that my parents didn’t tell me about this family debate until after I had made my choice.

So, I visited UMich with my mom. We sat through an orientation session where the speakers talked about the great history and past of the university, the great things that their graduates have done, and things like that. They made us stand up and sing their fight song, and then came strike one: I felt silly singing the song. I laughed about it with my mom before we split up into two different sessions. I then sat through the session on extracurricular activities, and I asked about Ultimate Frisbee: they had a team. That kind of diminished the strike against the school, so for now we’ll just say that we’re back to even.

We broke up into smaller groups, and my mom was back in the group with me. We had to introduce ourselves to the rest of the group and the tour guide, including saying the last funny movie that we saw. Mine was “She’s the Man,” which is a hilarious movie based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The tour guide blatantly said, “that’s a stupid movie,” and then continued on to the next student (slightly paraphrased). The strike against UMich got re-chalked up with the obvious display of conceit and arrogance, since the movie wasn’t what he thought was funny so it must then be stupid and inferior to his favorite funny movies.

He led us out into the campus and we went into one of the dormitories. While waking, I just looked around at the buildings and the people that we walked past, trying to picture myself on campus for four years. We finally entered the dorm, and he showed us a sample room. I took a peak in, checked it out, then walked back into the hallway.

This is when I turned to my mom and said, “I’m going to MSU.”

I didn’t see myself going to school there, walking to classes, hanging out in my dorm room, eating in the cafeteria, meeting people, and having a good time. We walked back to our car, got on the freeway, and I called my dad and my sister to tell them the news.

So, I contacted the three schools and informed them of my choice, set my major as “Lyman Briggs – Undecided,” and prepared for the next part of my life. I talked with two of my friends about the roommate situation, eventually deciding to room with the kid I met from the nearby high school, I looked into the Physics program, since I had basically finalized my choice of major, and finished out my senior year of high school, eagerly anticipating a time three months distant where I wouldn’t be living in Beverly Hills anymore.

Right now, I’m sitting in my room in my apartment just off the MSU campus, with my head on a State pillow and a State flag hanging next to my door, after wasting time leading Calculus recitation for Briggs Calc II and before heading to my office hours and my upper-level Briggs HPS class. There will probably be some guitar playing and studying mixed in there as well.

Like I said, it was the best choice of my life.

Advanced College Education

I’m at the point in my college career that my classes are so advanced, so complex, that just mentioning their names to people make them view me as the second coming of Einstein. The funniest comment was when I told a friend that I was doing homework for Quantum Mechanics; his response was, “they have a class for that?” I feel pretty good about little things like that, since I am working really hard on my college education and making sure that I learn as much as I can. Why else would I be taking extra classes that aren’t required?

There is, however, a funny side to being in advanced classes as well. Since everyone is at the same level, and the professors know it, they commonly treat it more like a discussion between peers than as a professor-to-student interaction, which I love. In the case of my math class, what we’re learning ti just funny when you think about it. The top two classes for this are, by far, Classical Mechanics II and Abstract Algebra and Number Theory.

Classical Mechanics II
My professor constantly adds in ridiculous comments to what he’s lecturing in, which makes the early morning, hour-long class that much more enjoyable. I decided today to keep track of what he mentioned as a running quote, just to make sure I remembered everything. Here’s a re-written version; keep in mind that this is just from one class period; the actual class meets three times a week times fifteen weeks.

– When driving to Chicago from East Lansing, a less-than optimal route would be to find out where your ex-girlfriend’s house is and circle it a dozen or so times before continuing on.
– How to determine if your friend is a wanted murderer
– When meeting a girl for the first time, you should not try to discretize them, as the essence of the girl is lost during the discretation.
– Getting your blood drawn in East Lansing is a much more comfortable experience than the same procedure in Ann Arbor, especially since you will look like a drug user should the procedure be done in Ann Arbor.
– “…and I am the master of your pain.” (direct quote)

Abstract Algebra and Number Theory
This class is more funny because of what we are learning. This is a high level mathematics course that only Math majors and Minors need to take, the line of prerequisites is quite long, and the homework takes quite a bit of time to complete and get right.

Today we learned how to subtract.

Think I’m joking? I actually wish I was, but even better yet is that today we learned that rational numbers existed. Fractions. We also learned that zero times anything equals zero today as well, making today’s class one of the most information-packed lectures of the day.

Of course, once I describe how we learned/proved those things, then you begin to realize why it’s a high-level Mathematics course, but if I told people what we are basically learning, then wouldn’t think it that hard. Here’s how we proved that zero times any number equals zero:

0 = 0 + 0 [Additive Identity]
a0 = a(0 + 0) [Closure of Multiplication]
a0 = a0 + a0 [Distributive Property]
x + a0 = x + (a0 + a0) [Closure of Addition]
x + a0 = (x + a0) + a0 [Associative Property of Addition]
0 = 0 + a0 [Additive Inverse]
0 = a0 [Existence of Zero]

Stunning, right?