Thursday, October 29, 2015

Everyone Loves the First Day of School!

 There's a normal kid's first day of school- new, oversized Spider Man backpack, peanut butter and jelly sandwich courtesy of mom (or chocolate sandwich with chumus for Israeli school children), a super exciting ride to school on the cool yellow school bus (or the green Egged bus mowing down slow moving pedestrians for Israeli school children).
Then there's Natania's first day of school. To be fair, I counted and this is the 13th time I'm starting a new semester. No, I'm not going for a record, though if they wanted to give me a prize for being an extremely slow academic developer I wouldn't object. So obviously the excitement has warn off by now. It wore off about 10 semesters ago. Regardless, there are constants that one comes to expect on his first day of class. For example, class. However, my experience has taught me never to take anything for granted.
I arrived to my first and only class of Sunday to find a notice that the course had been canceled due to not having enough participants. It wasn't even a printed out sign. They passed this critical information on to us via a chalk message written on the board.
As I wandered back downstairs to the secretaries' office to figure out what I was supposed to do now that I was down 2 of the 9 credits I had left, someone approached me and asked if I knew where room 506 was. I answered, “it's upstairs but don't bother going since they canceled the course.” He must have gotten the same memo about it as I did judging by his face.
Apparently they had in fact sent us an email that morning, but like most non-morning people I wake up at the last possible moment, shuffle off to the bathroom, shove something in my mouth for nutritional purposes, and shamble out to the bus stop. I don't stop to read my emails, sniff the flowers, or to glory in the ceaseless wonders of the universe. There's time for all that after coffee consumption.
As the secretary looked over the courses I'd taken, she noticed that I was missing 8 credits worth of electives and 2 labs. One lab I had permission not to take, but I didn't even realize that I was missing the other one. And I knew nothing about electives, no one ever having mentioned them before that moment. So on my first day of school, not only did I not have the class I was supposed to have, but I had suddenly had another semester added to my eternal degree, every semester of which brings me closer to breaking a world record.
I immediately went to the library to rearrange my schedule and sign up for all these courses I now had to take. Signing up for 8 credits worth of electives was difficult since they had to be courses offered in the humanities or social sciences. The few potentially interesting ones were already full. I tried to sign up for “Mummies, Pyramids, & Redemption- an Introduction to Ancient Egyptian Religion,” “Homo Sapiens- from the Agricultural Revolution to the Scientific Revolution,” “An Introduction to the History of Christianity,” and a course on Islam, but all of them were full. This left such fascinating courses such as “An Introduction to Israeli Thought,” (though this would probably have answered a few questions I have about Israelis and their thought processes) “An introduction to the Bible,” (I think I'm a bit past that stage) and “Japanese Politics and Foreign Policy (clearly relevant to my life).” I ended up signing up for Microeconomics this semester, which incidentally I took about a decade ago at Ithaca College with a senile professor, and Urban Geography next semester. Still not sure what that course is about, unless it's a course about navigating your way to the supermarket.
The Microeconomics course is a bit worrying. The first day of class, which takes place twice a week at 8:00 in the morning- not my favorite time of day, the professor started telling us about the final. It went something like this:
“The class isn't very hard. The final is hard though. Quite difficult. In fact, it's sort of meant to make you fail. Last year's average was a 48. We couldn't even tell the difference between who understood the material and who was just guessing. We did give a curve, which raised the average to a 77. We didn't want to give too much of a factor though.”

He didn't seem to think there was anything upsetting about this statement either. He looked perplexed by the fact that the entire class was crying.