First impressions of the classes here in America

As always, before you know what’s happening another week has flown by. Last week was the first week of classes, and it has gone by seemingly without too many problems. That is fortunate, but also largely a result of signing onto classes as early as it was possible for me to do in the summer. It was a pain at the time, but has saved a lot of hassle now. I am able to just get on with all the work without the distraction of making sure I have taken 12 units for this quarter. I need to get on too! I have taken MAE104 Aerodynamics, MAE101C Heat Transfer and MAE140 Linear Circuits, and I was very pleased to find that they follow on remarkably well from the courses I took in 2nd year Mechanical Engineering. It is clear that they do not hang around with setting homework’s, that’s for sure. I may have only had one week of classes, but I’ve already had to hand in my first weeks’ homework for the year. We get set one a week for each class, and they are similar in many ways to the tutorial questions we get for engineering in Edinburgh, only they are more numerous and appear to be more in depth. That isn’t the only work to do however. Those people who tell you that reading is important in the US are not lying! I’ve had to give up my usual bedtime reading for the very exciting Aerodynamics and Heat transfer text books. For Aero, this last week I’ve had to cover 150 pages and a further 60 pages in Heat Transfer. You may think you can just not bother, but it turns out that reading the material is rather essential for understanding the material covered in the classes, because instead of explaining a topic in detail they will just refer you to the book and go onto an example if you are lucky.

I shall not lie, so far I prefer the Edinburgh teaching method as they do ensure that it is easy to understand important concepts, but I remain prepared to give the American style a proper go. The discussion sessions have proved very useful, with someone taking questions from the class on the problems that have been set. This works better than the usual engineering tutorial sessions back in Edinburgh, that is for sure. One big plus point, and major relief, is that all my courses use the SI units, and not the bizarre and plain daft English units so that is one less thing I have to learn.

I have been very lucky with my accommodation for the year. I decided against staying at the International House, and am instead at Warren Apartments. Not only is it much closer to lectures, but we have a really large, comfortable living room that is easy to work in and a balcony that offers terrific views of the numerous canyons. There are also the regular US Navy jet fly-bys, which deafen everyone, but are mighty impressive to see. Yesterday four flew so low I could easily read all the markings underneath, before they shot off with smoke pouring from their rear.

The food severed in the restaurant is perhaps not what you would expect, considering this is America. The last few days I have had Pizza and a bowl of Pasta for dinner, and the only variation to that I’ve had is when I enjoyed various Chinese offerings for 4 straight nights. You do get the option of the usual fried suspects, but the workers in the restaurant appear to do their best to make them seem as unappetising as possible.

I have kept myself busy in those few times when I’ve not been working, with several events going on this last week. On Wednesday we had our first resident’s event, talking about birthdays around the world. The main draw was the super chocolate cake and the piñata though. This afternoon, I spend a very pleasant few hours in downtown San Diego. It is beautiful downtown by the bay, so whenever I get the chance to go I make sure to take it. My purpose for going was to buy some train tickets to Los Angeles, as I’m heading there in a fortnight to watch the Vancouver Canucks play the LA Kings in the National Hockey League. I’m a huge Ice Hockey fan, so I can’t wait! In order to keep me in touch with my English, oh wait – I mean British, heritage, I’ve been watching a lot of Only Fools and Horses lately. Despite my best efforts at explaining the plots, so far my American flatmates haven’t really grasped it. I shall try it on them again next week, when we all have some free time. Free time that is becoming increasingly in short supply!

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