Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Graduate Assistants' Office

Graduate school was a very weird time for me. I wasn't really sure if it was what I wanted to be doing, but I didn't really have anywhere else to go. So to grad school I went. I started by going for the Applied Mathematics program but after the first year I changed to Statistics and have not one regretted the decision even once. It was a happy time because I was with Sarah, but also not because I was separated from all my other friends. My friends in college were all either a year ahead of me or a year behind me. My two best high school friends that were in my grade went to different, far away schools. My college didn't have a grad school, so I went elsewhere.

The Door
If you didn't know what it was, you would think it was a closet. A single door between two side hallways that came off of the main hallway, you'd might never consider it as being anything of importance. The door contained no markers to indicate its belonging to the graduate students and no window so that you may peer at its contents. Once inside the locked door, you'd find a narrow, somewhat long room containing eight desks along it's long walls, a whiteboard on the wall facing the hallway, two high, narrow windows on the exterior wall, and shelves of mathematics texts from a time long past. There was also a filing cabinet, a refrigerator that was long overdue for a cleaning, and a single phone.

On each desk was a computer. These computers were the leftovers, the ones cast aside when professors or classrooms received upgrades. Their installations, programs, 'speed', and peripherals varied widely. There were 'good' computers and 'bad' computers, with the designation as to which was which changing as time went on. They were shit to the point of not being usable.

The room was so narrow that if the chairs weren't pushed in to the desks you couldn't traverse it. I surmise it was once a server closet that was re-purposed when the computer science department changed floors when they separated from the mathematics department.

As a graduate assistant who taught classes, I was supposed to keep office hours. I did for a while. After realizing that even if I specifically asked someone to come see me during my office hours they wouldn't come I stopped keeping them. Nobody ever complained about my absence.

Other people used the office, of course, so it was never lonely. Yet these were people I hardly knew at all, and scarcely associated with. We were on polite terms at the best. Most of them hailed from foreign countries, and their English, while serviceable, was flawed. They clung to each other, strangers in a strange land, which made me the outcast.

That single room was like a distillation of much that I felt while I was there. It was a place, with things, but being of incredibly little worth. I hated being there and felt like I didn't belong. Really, I shouldn't have been there. I should have been somewhere better, but due to my own inaction (my greatest flaw) I was there. In retrospect, though, I'm glad I was where I was. It seems unlikely I would still be with Sarah had I not gone there.

Fun fact: part of the reason that I decided to change to statistics was because of a response Ghostcrawler had to a hunter forum thread. He talked about the analysis they did when balancing classes. It really struck me. I'm very thankful for that thread to this day. Also, Vi Hart is super cool. Watch this: