Maria Holland

First Day of Classes

In Uncategorized on August 23, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Matt and I high-fived each other as we reached the top of the stairs at 7:55.  “Five minutes early!  Go us!” we exclaimed.  Our class was not in Keplinger, the engineering building right next to both of our apartments where we usually spend our days (and occasionally nights), but instead was all the way across campus – thus, a timely arrival had required superhuman feats of waking up early.

And then we walked into our Writing for the Professions classroom, where the professor was already halfway down the first page of the syllabus.  What on earth?  Who just starts a class early, much less one at 8 a.m., much less on the first day of classes? 

Great way to start off the year.


Next was Control Systems Engineering.  I have some things to review for that class, but it’s a finite amount so it’s okay.  I like Dr. Mohan and the vibe I get from our class is almost as awesome as the dynamic that existed among my old classmates.

The only frustrating thing was the syllabus.  I went through and wrote down the test days and big due dates, and ran into a problem.  Seriously, at this point in the school year after a year away I have like two events in my planner, and there’s already a conflict.  Gotta snap out of China-mode, where tests were optional and finals doubly so!


I then walked back across campus to another non-Keplinger building for Chinese.  I found the room and looked in to see a Chinese teacher, a guy, and a girl, just standing around.  The teacher asked who I was and seemed a little doubtful when I said I hadn’t taken Intermediate Chinese or passed a placement test but that wanted to attend the class anyway, but within a few minutes of “repeat-after-me” exercises, she could tell I was going to be okay.  The class is CHIN 3003, Advanced Chinese I, and without bragging I will say that my level is significantly higher than the other students. 

It’s not due to any special ability, but a year of living in China and studying Chinese in Chinese will do that to ya I guess.  I have spent possibly orders of magnitude more time speaking and listening to Chinese (with native speakers) than them, and when students are only studying Chinese we tackle a lot more vocabulary.  As an example, they knew one word for “understand”, while I can think of 5 (明白,懂,理解,了解,体会). 

I think I’m going to stick with it though, at least for a little while.  I like the teacher and it’s still good practice for me.  I feel bad because I think I might intimidate the other students, but maybe I can be a help instead.


After lunch, we had Senior Design.  I adore our professor (and, I’m realizing, the ME class of 2011 is not half bad) but I’m mildly terrified.  It’s just the first course of two that serve as the culminating experience of our undergraduate engineering education, nbd. 

I really thought my year in China was going to hurt me as I tried to get back in the swing of things with my ME major, but apparently that’s not the case.  After Dr. Tipton lectured us on creativity and intellectual blocks, he described a problem for us and asked us to brainstorm solutions.  Basically, there’s a room with a concrete floor, into which is set the base of a tube.  The tube contains a ping pong ball with very little clearance .  The challenge is to get the ball out of the tube without damaging the floor or the tube, and all we had to do it was:

  • claw hammer
  • hanger
  • box of Wheaties
  • plastic spoon

One guy shouted out “Use the Wheaties to make yourself salivate and then spit into the tube until the ball floats out!”.  Good idea, but I immediately responded “It’d be faster if you just pee in it.”  At this point Dr. Tipton stopped the exercise because he said I’d gotten the answer he was looking for.  He was trying to illustrate cultural/environmental blocks to creativity; apparently there is usually one kid snickering in the corner for about ten minutes before finally saying that idea out loud.  Well, if there’s one thing that my experiences in China have taught me, it’s that there are no inappropriate times to talk about defecation or urination. 

Biogas digesters, squatty potties, and split bottom pants FTW!


There was a room change before our next class (Introduction to Numerical Methods), but our teacher didn’t get the memo.  She came hurrying into class a few minutes late and made a comment about M4 being a good approximation of U9.  We ALL laughed – ah, math humor.  In a class like that, you take what you can get.

I think the class will be useful and not deathly hard, but it was during this class that my record of not falling asleep in class all day bit the dust . . .

Mondays and Wednesdays are pretty long days for me – 6 hours of class spread out from 8 to 5 with only an hour in the morning and two hours for lunch.  That’s a long way from XiaDa, when the most class I ever had was 3 hours and the shortest lunch I ever had was also three hours. 

But . . . I really liked it!

  1. Okay – so now you’re known for a fourth thing…Yea, Maria!

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