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First Week of Classes, Complete!

Now that I’ve been to all of my classes once–and work a few times–I have some thoughts to post.

First off, let me just say, for the sake of any engineers who come to this blog wanting to find out about switching into Library Science, it is wonderful to know, for every class I go to, that the lecture will consist of concepts and ideas, instead of equations and derivations. It was always a toss-up, in E School, which it would be. No such problem, here; there are facts and figures, of course, but far more time is spent discussing goals and ideas. And looking at my various syllabi, I don’t feel that sense of overwhelming dread that always pervaded my engineering education. (I know it wasn’t just me! But I also get the sense that it wasn’t everyone…) I am actually looking forward to a few of these readings and papers, which is just totally unprecedented in my education to date. (Just some of them. Some of the deadlines, at least, are a tiny bit dread-inducing; seriously, 50% of my grade in one class is due on November 24. I’m a student, still, not a machine.)

I also want to reiterate how overjoyed I am that midterms and exams aren’t emphasized in this program. I have one midterm, total, between my four classes. I always felt that one of the biggest failings of my engineering education–and I’m self-aware enough to realize it was a failing of my own, at least as much as of the programs I was in–was the tendency to cram for exams and forget most of it immediately thereafter. For those of you outside of engineering, it’s worth mentioning that that’s kind of how E School is set up, in a lot of places: you’re learning more than two/four years’ worth of information in two/four years (grad/undergrad), and as such, everything is just too crammed together. You don’t have time to study properly and do your homework, so you do your homework as best you can, usually with friends’ and TAs’ help (which is allowed, no problem), and when the exam comes, you pretty much drop all your other classes for a day and cram for that one test. There’s project work, but it nearly always feels more like an add-on to the homework and tests than anything, or it did to me, at least. (The one class where that wasn’t the case left me with scars that still make me cringe when I hear the term “group work.”) … I claim that setup is not conducive to long-term retention; I’ve long felt that engineering school should last five years, not four, and the focus should be shifted, somewhat, to help students retain material. I’m sure people have heard me say, since graduating, that I “have forgotten more than I ever really learned.” It’s hyperbolic, but not nearly as far off as I’m sure employers hiring young engineers would like.

I digress, a bit, but my point is that I think the hands-on approach–reading the relevant literature and writing about it and making business plans and writing papers and creating posters and so on–is so much more beneficial than the “take notes in lecture, read the course work, do some problem sets, and cram for exams” approach.

Anyway, as for my specific classes, they all seem like they’ll be good. There are crazy amounts of reading–I posted my book list earlier this evening, and now that I think about it, I missed a couple of books–but it all seems pretty relevant and interesting.

I’m not kidding myself: it’s going to be rough going, getting all of my school work and internship work done this semester. I’m not going to have gobs of free time to do with as I please. I won’t be traveling anywhere to speak of. (I’m going to take a little time out to play Rock Band, though, yes.) Class, work, reading, and sleep, in some order, will be the bulk of my life. But I’m more OK with that than I had expected to be. I’m really pretty psyched about this whole thing.

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