Thursday, January 5, 2012

Rural Adjustments

Rural Adjustments

by Josh Gottlieb

Hey buddy. Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner, but it's about to be finals week so I'm up to my neck in books to read and papers to write. I adjusted to Arkansas a lot faster than I thought. The reason I moved out here was so I could essentially get off the grid for a few years while l learned a few things, but once I got out here I realized it wasn't going to be so easy considering the town has under ten thousand people. Coming from Silver Spring it was a bit of a culture shock. Once classes started up though it didn't even matter where I was. Classes essentially controlled my life (and they continue to), and they will control yours as well once you get to college.

I'm surprised you wanted to know so much about what classes I'm taking, but I guess that makes sense since you have to start looking for colleges pretty soon. I'll tell you about them, but I reserve the right to go off on tangents, as I desire. I'm taking four courses out here, although they tell me I should be taking five. I didn't feel like dealing with an extra three credits. Honestly, it's due primarily to laziness, but I told my folks it was because I still needed to adjust to college level courses. Originally I was going to major in Political Science since I enjoyed the government related topics we discussed in high school, but after a shitty introductory course I took here last semester I decided to switch to Sociology. Basically this means that I will be poor the rest of my life, but I couldn't get through four years of this without studying something I'm interested in. Briefly I thought about majoring in History, but I'm really only interested in American history and European history. Rather than having to take a litany of courses in Latin American history and Asian history, I can just take the few American and European history courses as electives. We have no core requirements really, so I'm free to take those courses whenever I feel like it. I figure if I spread out the courses I'm interested in across my four years here, I will have something to enjoy every semester.

They have me in Contemporary Sociological Theory, which is one of the few classes I'm required to take for my major. It's pretty damn boring, but I would rather get it over with now than have to take it my senior year when I'm ready to get out of this place. It's funny how so many freshmen like me just talk about how much they love it here, when I know for a fact we will all be clamoring to get out of this town by the time we reach our eighth semester. Hell, all the seniors in my classes can't wait to graduate. That being said, don't let anyone tell you that college is all fun all the time. In fact, sometimes it's pretty awful. Every now and then I find myself missing high school, which is something I never thought I would say, but honestly there was some pretty good times back then. Also, I haven't spoken to any of the guys since I was back in town for Christmas.

For my American History fix, I'm taking a course in the American West. I briefly considered taking one called the Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union, but I didn't want to have any classes on Friday. You'll see when you get to college that not only will you despise Friday classes, but also anything before ten in the morning just won't work for you. Trust me on this. You might think that you can do everything in the morning and get it over with, but when you're drinking four nights every week, those mornings become more and more difficult. The American West is pretty interesting, although you expect to just read cool stories about cowboys and the frontier, when in reality we learn a whole lot more about the slaughter of Native Americans, and how horrible the takeover of the land that is now the United States was. While I believe that the information I am learning is accurate, there's no doubt in my mind that the liberal bias we all have here adds to the nature of the content we learn. I mean I'm about as liberal as they come, but I find it ridiculous when girls in my class start crying over events that happened a hundred fifty years ago when their own ancestors were still in Europe.

Since I had to take at least four courses to be a full time student, the third course I chose for this semester is a seminar in Victorian Literature. While obviously some of the literature we have to read is extremely dry, I figured it would be better than literature in postcolonial America, or an entire course on the works of Shakespeare. My professor is pretty entertaining, although I imagine most English professors who decide to teach in rural Arkansas are similar in this respect. He's fat, bald, and speaks with a heavy Chicago accent, which I don't think I will ever get used to. Next time you meet someone from the Midwest, just ask 'em to pronounce the word Wisconsin. It's pretty entertaining.

The fourth course I'm taking this semester is Introduction to Anthropology. I figured it would be similar enough to sociology that I would know everything already, but just like everything else I was wrong. Not only do we have something like a hundred pages of reading every class, but we either have an exam or a paper due every week. In most courses you earn a grade based on a total of three assignments: a midterm, a final, and a paper. While there is increased pressure to do well on each assignment, it's still much better than having something to worry about all the time.

One thing you should know is that part of college is learning how to get by on as little work as possible. In spite of this, I figured while I'm still eager to learn I might as well take courses in difficult subjects like Victorian Literature like now, and Ancient Chinese Philosophy as I did last semester. Later on, when I'm burned out on this town and the constant workload that comes with a school this small, I figure I can take less intensive courses. When your college has such a small number of students, not only do the same fourteen hundred people surround you all the time, but your classes are smaller than they were in high school. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage. While you definitely get more attention from professors and actually have the opportunity to get to them, the problem is you always have to show up for class, and they will know if you did not do your assigned readings for the day. Don't expect to coast by on skimming textbooks and not reading for English class. At a small school, they know when you don't care. And trust me, eventually you will not care.

Other than schoolwork my life is okay I suppose. I've been smoking about a pack a day, which certainly is having an impact on my health already. Since there are no stores around campus, I have to buy by the carton, which certainly doesn't help. Camels aren't cheap, either! The problem is, when you have ten packs of cigarettes in your room you think you have enough to last you forever, that is until you run out. Hopefully I'll quit after college, but I'm pretty sure everyone says that. I mean, if everyone quit after college then there would barely be any smokers over age twenty-two, right? I guess I have to blame your brother, Jake, and Mark for this habit. My caffeine addiction I'll blame on my professors.

The food out here is terrible. Dining hall food is never known for being particularly fantastic, but the diners and restaurants out here have shitty food as well. You'd think that Arkansas would have some decent cooking, but it's quite the contrary. The best part of my life out here actually, is a cute girl from Missouri named Grace that I've been dating the past few months. We met at a party a little while back and decided that wild sex was the best route to go. Eventually, we developed an emotional connection (or at least she did) so I keep getting sex whenever I want it. It doesn't hurt that I have a single, so no roommate to deal with whenever I feel like ejaculating.

I know you have to start figuring out where you want to apply to college and everything coming up pretty soon, but my one piece of advice is don't apply to State. There's no point, you know? We grew up five minutes from College Park, and if you want to go to a big school there are better options out there that I'm sure you could get into, although you seem like the small school type. I think I remember you mentioning Oberlin at one point, but that place isn't exactly a cakewalk to get in to.

Well, I should get back to the paper I'm supposed to be writing. Take care of yourself, and hopefully I'll see you when I get back. Toodles!


AUTHOR BIO: Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, Josh Gottlieb currently resides in Texas to attend graduate school after receiving his Bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland. He enjoys writing about mundane aspects of life when not attempting to grind out an academic assignment.