Some general observations:
Things have changed A LOT since the last time I was in school, which was only seven years ago! I had to learn how to use Blackboard (online class program thing) for all my classes. It has its own separate email for each class, as well as discussion boards, review material, lecture notes, posted grades and assignments (some of which are completed solely via the web). Also, for my first lab class we had to make charts and graphs on Excel, which I’ve never used (luckily one of my lab partners is proficient).
It’s not only the technology, but the material. Back when I was in high school, we had to memorize these classification groups for biology, you know, Kingdom, Phyllum, Order…all the way to Species. It turns out that is a bit outdated. Now they are mapping species similarity using genetics and it turns out that fungi are more similar in genetic makeup to humans and animals than they are to plants or algae. The mapping ends up looking like a tree-ish sort of thing.
I am really, really glad I chose school over the Denver Center. My mind feels engaged for the first time in ages, in real challenging material. I haven’t taken bio or chem (and there is a lot of chemistry involved in this first term of bio) since I was in my first two years of high school. I remember parts of it from back then, which helps (and chem hasn’t changed), so it’s stirring up old knowledge but really expanding it. And we are covering material FAST. This is the start of my third week, and we’re already on chapter seven of a huge book, and having our first exam next week. So it’s been a lot of material, and challenging material, but I feel like I am keeping up.
And! I have learned some cool things:
My friend loves this one: In the human liver there are two enzymes that break down alcohol, one that does it fast and one that takes more time. Some people don’t have the faster one, so their bodies have a harder time handling drinking, and the person gets super flushed (and pretty drunk) like immediately and just in general can’t handle much of anything to drink).
Red blood cells look like donuts with a dimple instead of a hole.
I don’t know if other things I’ve learned will interest anyone (and are a bit complex), but I’ve also learned about how snake venom works, how detergent (as in laundry soap) works, the basic gist of what causes mad cow disease, and lots of other fun things. Now when I get out of the shower, I think about Hydrogen bonds (water adheres to the body via H bonds, hair is more malleable and less stiff, also due to H bonds). I have to say, it’s early, only had five lecture classes so far, but I am loving it. And I really like my prof. She brings in these really practical examples of the processes we’re learning about and she takes time to answer questions in class and discuss things, while still moving through the material quickly.
And I feel like I’m keeping up. I’m staying on top of the reading (which is a LOT), getting practice questions right at the ends of chapters, getting questions in class right (it’s a huge lecture, almost 300 students, and so we have multiple choice questions in class and we have to hold up our answers, it’s not for grading, more for us to check ourselves and how well we’re following). The upcoming exam feels intimidating, but I think I’ll do well. I’m expecting a lot out of myself, hopefully not unrealistically. I definitely expect straight A’s.
Lab is a bit more challenging, mostly for me visually but I should be getting an assistant soon. The first week we played with plant pigments from red cabbage (which luckily had already been distilled and all, so there was no smell), and this past week we extracted our DNA and put it through the same process as you would to do a PCR test (which is what is used for crime scene investigation, paternity testing, testing for genetic conditions, etc) and also got to really visualize and play with the rules of protein folding by playing with big foam noodles!
I am only taking six credits – that was the perfect balance where I could still get financial aid and enroll, and have enough aid/student loans left over to cover living expenses in case it takes me a bit to find a job (apparently the job market here in Portland really blows) – but it certainly feels like a full load of classes. There is a lot of reading for lab which is separate from the reading for lecture and we have quizzes every week (pretty sure I aced the first one, if anything I was overprepared). And then I have a one-credit class on Fridays (intro pre-med) that requires a lot of thoughtful, written responses to readings and panel discussions, etc, even though it’s only one-credit and is pass/fail only.
So yeah, school is great!
For my Orcas peeps – hate to say this but I’m not coming up for Women’s Wellness Weekend. I have my one-credit class on Fri, my lab on Sat, and assignments due for both that weekend, and my second exam is the day after the weekend ends, soooo not this time. Hopefully my schedule will be different next term and I can make it for the Spring one and read the shit out of some tarot cards for all the ladies! This time around though, school’s gotta come first. It looks different, being older, and paying for school myself, and I feel committed to making it my first priority.
Anyway that’s the quick update about classes. Still loving my place and my location, so happy I chose PSU as my school, and really scored on apartment location. Over the next few days, I will have to buckle down for some hard core studying for next week’s exam.