A taste of college life

As I have mentioned, Katy applied to the University of Alabama in Huntsville early (it was an easy application) and was accepted and offered a very nice merit scholarship. They have overnight events for admitted students with three scheduled this semester and then they’ll have some next semester, too. They run from Sunday to Monday and students can eat in the cafeteria, spend the night in the dorm, attend classes, meet with professors, financial aid, clubs, athletics or whatever they might need more information on. You don’t have to have made a decision to attend, it’s a last-ditch “please pick us” recruitment tool.

The event was organized by Alexandra, one of the admissions counselors. The students are put in one class from their major (if they’ve specified one) and one of their choosing and Katy chose English. Biology is her intended major. So she got a schedule a couple of days in advance. On Sunday everyone met in the admissions office, had a tour of the campus, dinner in the cafeteria and then off to the dorms. Monday everyone did something different. Katy had a writing class at 8 a.m., principles of biology at 9:20 and then an early lunch at 11. She had requested to meet with a music club but Alex wasn’t able to work that out, but that was OK.

We drove to Huntsville Sunday and went through Chattanooga rather than our usual local-road route so Katy could try out the drive. I was in the backseat and after she took a curvy off-ramp at a roller-coaster speed and I was later awoken from a nap by Heath hollering “sloooow dowwwwn” I contemplated flying back on Monday.

We got to the campus and had planned to just drop Katy off but ended up parking and going in to use the restroom so we met Alex and found out there were eight students attending (8-10 is what they usually have). Then we headed to our hotel. We stayed at the new Drury Inn across the street from the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and it was very nice. We had a view of the rocket park.

We went for dinner at Metro Diner, a restaurant we had been to on a previous trip and really liked. There was a family there celebrating a 92nd birthday. Then it was back to hang out at the hotel.

Katy texted later that night to say they were going to watch Rocketman in the school theater — “free sodas and popcorn”.

Monday morning Heath and I got up and had breakfast in the hotel. We had originally hoped to go to the botanical gardens, which are supposed to be very nice. Well, it was raining and I wasn’t feeling well so we went back to the room and I was going to take a nap. At 9:40 my phone rang. It was Katy. Class was canceled. Well, she didn’t have anything else scheduled except for lunch. I told her to meet us at the admissions office. Heath and I were pretty perturbed after we drove all that way and had her miss a day of school, only for a major thing to be canceled. I texted Katy and told her to the go to the admissions office and ask Alex, or anyone, if there was anything else she could do. She was in the student union and said she would call.

So we packed up, checked out and got to the campus about 10. I asked the admissions secretary about Katy and she said Alex was on the phone with her so we walked over to her cubicle. She had arranged for Katy to attend a chemistry class at 11:20. I said that was fine with us and we talked a bit. She wasn’t very happy, either, she said she had arranged this with all the professors and everything was fine. She said the students went to class and when there was no teacher, someone thought to check Canvas (their campus communications portal) and sure enough, there was a message saying class was canceled. I said well, maybe she had a sick kid or car trouble or something, things happen. I noticed on her desk three piles of cards that said breakfast ticket … lunch ticket … dinner ticket … so I asked if I could get a couple of lunch tickets so Heath and I could eat lunch in the cafeteria before heading out. So we got those.

Well, now we have two hours to kill, we’ve checked out of the hotel and it’s raining. We went to the front desk to ask about a parking pass so we could park near the cafeteria later. I asked if there was anything to do in the rain besides the rocket center as we have done that to death. He gave us some maps of town and made some suggestions.

We decided to visit a landmark we have heard lots about but have never seen. The Eggbeater Jesus. OK, officially it’s the Cosmic Jesus but once you see it …

I think it looks like a whisk, not an eggbeater, but anyway.

It’s a tile mosaic on one side of First Baptist Church Huntsville. It’s much bigger than I expected. It’s being restored as the tiles are peeling. It doesn’t look like it was sealed in any way.

You can see where the tiles are peeling.

Historical marker. The church is now part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which the organization our church belongs to.

Then we drove around town a bit, looked for a mall Heath remembered and found out it was torn down two years ago, and back to campus to hang out. We spent 30 minutes looking for a parking place. The single biggest complaint about UAH is the parking. There’s also a shortage of student housing. They’ve started a major expansion that will include more housing (and presumably more parking) but that’s 20 years down the line. The school has leased three apartment complexes for student housing and they are all 2-3 miles from campus, so you have to drive. They really need to put in some buses. Shuttles between those three apartment buildings and campus would cut down on the number of cars and the campus is really big enough to benefit from a small bus system.

So we loitered outside the cafeteria until Katy got there. She got out of class at 12:15 and students started pouring in around noon. I’d say they have a good-sized ROTC program, saw several young men in fatigues come by. The cafeteria isn’t in the student union, it’s in the Conference Training Center. There’s also a coffee shop with Startbucks coffee and a sandwich shop but everyone was in the cafeteria.

When we did a campus visit in June freshman/new student registration was going on so the cafeteria was pretty busy but it was all families. Today it was packed and it was all students (saw a few faculty/staff) and was a very different feel.

During lunch and the ride home (Heath drove!) Katy told us what all she did. The writing class only had four students, not surprising for 8:00 Monday morning. The students had just started their first research essay so the class covered various resources available to them.

Then there was biology. It was a small class, too. When the professor didn’t show up and it was discovered class was canceled, Katy said “I’m a visitor, I don’t know what I should do”. So then a few students started talking to her and asking where she was from. When she got settled into the chemistry class a couple of hours later one of the girls she talked to in biology was in the chemistry class and introduced Katy to a couple of her friends. The chemistry class was going over the periodic table and Katy remembered that from her sophomore chemistry class. Chemistry is not high on Katy’s list of a good time but I told her she hasn’t seen the end of it.

The science and technology center where Katy made two stops.

Katy said everyone was really nice. They all wanted to know where she went to high school. The high school students all met together at the beginning and I asked if they said where they were from and she said no. I’m wondering if a lot of them were local.

They took a short campus tour Sunday evening. Everyone in the group had done a tour with their parents already. The tour guide said this was more of an unofficial tour as the things talked about on the official tours are usually things parents care about but students don’t.

A big attraction of UAH is internships. Huntsville is a major hub for STEM type jobs. The school is across from a huge technology park and was originally intended to be a research-training center. They offer a wide range of degrees — business, education, nursing, history, English, etc. — but the tech aspect is still a major thing. So every year they have a big internship fair with tons of companies. The tour guide said her brother’s company set up a table and no one stopped by. If anyone had stopped by, that person could have gotten an internship. If you’re picky about what you want there’s probably more competition but if you’re open to anything, you will get something. And internships pay $20-$30 an hour.

Katy enjoyed the dorm and the other students. All of the dorms at UAH are what colleges are calling “suite-style”, which is different than what I consider a dorm suite. They are mini-apartments with four small bedrooms (single occupancy), two bathrooms and a small living/kitchen area. So you have roommates but you have your own space, too.

This was a really good weekend for Katy. She could see what college is like and get some advice from other students. It’s more “real” than the tours.

Katy doesn’t really know where she wants to go. She submitted an application to Georgia College and State University and is working on the one for Berry College. She’d like to visit those two again but I don’t know when since she wants to have a decision sometime in January. Right now UAH feels “real” because she’s actually been accepted. Once she hears from the other two and they’re real options, not just possibilities, it may be easier.

Heath and I are still Team Berry but UAH is a strong second choice. Huntsville is a good place to live, there are so many job opportunities. Anything Katy wants to do she’s going to have to have more than a bachelor’s degree and will probably go somewhere for grad school but if she did want to go straight to work afterward, she could easily find a good job there and it would be a nice place to live.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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