Friday, September 16, 2011

S, M, L, XL schools

I realized the other day that I have attended four universities, all of different sizes! Small, medium, large, and extra large. And here are some size-queen thoughts about college.

Small schools like my undergrad are so great. For me at least, I like the homey feeling where most everyone you need to know, knows you back, and you get personal attention. I know it's not for everybody, but I highly recommend a small-school experience. Vassar was a great school for this. It was an arboretum, it had teeny-tiny teacher-student ratios, and on-campus housing all four years. It's also a bubble, for better or worse- sheltering students so they can learn, but then again they never get out into the surrounding community unless they really make the effort.

While at Vassar I took a semester in Edinburgh, Scotland, and studied some music at their 'state' university there. I'd call this a large school, as I never saw most other departments and felt pretty anonymous, but then I was also plopped down in a foreign country so I felt generally anonymous. Payment for class was somehow done the same way since the middle ages, where basically every single student in the university formed a giant thousand-plus person queue to hand one lady a check or a credit card. However, there was something redeeming about a university within the urban setting, you could just walk outside the music building to a café next door! And my 'meal plan' was more than generous in the nearby cafeteria, so I was able to feed some homeless people on my extra lunches.

Moving right along, I went to Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, which is more like a Large School but feels like a Medium School. It was relatively self-contained, but the music/arts building was grand and I felt very important being able to learn there. The spaces I worked in and had class were also small and kept to few students, so it maintained a medium-size environment. Though I can't say the same thing for their bigger departments like computer science, where I don't know if I'd ever meet all the students in my own department.

Currently I'm in Boulder, Colorado, whose university is like the destructive goatweed that someone thought was a good idea to plant along the highway. The university is a giant-XL-supersized megalomaniac and taking over everything in its path. During some football games, there are so many people and cars and bicycles that the streets are closed and the libraries close, and I avoid campus altogether. It is almost too big to walk across (though you could do it, if you had all afternoon) and there are bus routes that cut through the campuses. I don't think I'll ever step foot in 95% of the buildings there. During the first weeks of school, the university bookstore set up temporary cash registers and a queue for book pick-up; there were 35 cashout stalls to be corralled into. But the pros of this 30K student body are in the infrastructure of the campus; there are tried-and-tested plans for transportation, dining, electronic systems that really do work for people's benefit and efficiency. I get emails for every book i check out from the library. And each department is sort of its own separate entity; I almost forget that I am not just at the College of Music but part of this city of students. Comforting as well is while many of the other students at CU are here basically just to ski and snowboard, and 'oh wait, I guess I have to take this quiz ugh'; the music students are as hard-working as ever, and are more likely than my tiny undergrad to escape out of the safe walls of campus and into the big world. And once they get out into town, they find conveniently close to campus boundaries: the marijuana dispensaries.

1 comment:

jess said...

CMU seemed L to me too, even though I knew it wasn't in the scheme of things.