Culture shock

School has been in session four weeks. A quarter of a semester. An eighth of the year, done already. I’ve experienced culture shock in more ways than one since August.

I drove home from campus a few weeks ago around 10 p.m. and in the five-block drive I passed at least that many gaggles of students grouped on the sidewalks, moving in various directions and clearly in various states of drunkenness. Wheaton this ain’t. SIUC has a reputation for being a party school. The grad students don’t live up to that reputation, but the undergrads seem to hold their end up just fine.

Possibly related to the above observation, undergrad students here are … sometimes not the brightest. Case in point: this is an essay response to a long essay question on an exam for a class I’m TAing. The question had to do with government control of the press in the U.S. (not much) and market forces driving the system.

I feel as if there is a lot of regulatory policy that happens even though their is a freedom of press amendment. Today the very much controls what is put out there about themselves, and others. The same goes for market forces, if someone has the money they can pay to have an ad back another political opponent. Everything regarding the media is controlled by the government.

Maybe I missed something, but that doesn’t seem like an essay, let alone “long.” And there’s actually a pretty low level of regulatory policy in the U.S., as opposed to, say, China, where you could legitimately say “Everything regarding the media is controlled by the government.”

My classes are a bit more challenging, thankfully. I’m a little confused about some things, like grades; I’m expected to get As in everything but also not supposed to worry about grades at all. I’m still not sure how those two things are possible at the same time, but I’ll hopefully figure it out soon.

My classmates and I are expected to read and comprehend probably 300-500 pages of material each week, including frightening things like integrals and derivatives that I forgot after freshman calculus. Statistics and research methods, the two “hardest classes” my officemates took in their entire PhD programs, are in the same semester for the first time this year, so I’ll be inducted into the “science” part of political science more quickly than might be comfortable. If I make it through the reading load and survive the incredible humidity of southern Illinois, though, I’ll be quite a bit smarter at Christmas than I was in August.

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