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The Best First Day of School Ever!

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Contrary to popular belief, smart people do not feel any different about going back to school than other people do. We would much rather still be reading on the beach, reading at the library, reading in bed after waking up late... but summer always has to end, what can you do about it?

I'm going to admit, I felt a little bit apprehensive as I ate breakfast the morning of the first day of classes. I'd visited the locations of all of my classes the day before to find out where they were and marked them on a map to help me. I arrived about a half-hour early to my first class, Statistics Discussion, so I waited and got a little more worried when nobody showed up for a while. What if I was in the wrong classroom? What if I was in the wrong building? Or what if I was in the exact right spot my schedule said, but the computer had made a mistake and the class was actually somewhere else entirely?

But, eventually, the other students showed up, and then the Teaching Fellow walked in. "My name is Ivan." He said, in a Russian accent. "This is Statistics Discussion, but there is no discussion today, because we have not had lecture yet, so you all can go home."

I breathed a tremendous sigh of relief, laughed at myself for getting so worried, and headed back to my dorm to get my books for my next two classes.

My Anthropology 101 class was great, the professor, Joanna Davidson, was very energetic as she explained that anthropology is the study of human cultures, and asked us to write our own definitions of culture and pass them up. That was hard, because I'd never really thought about how many different things the word meant before. Not just arts, not just traditions, not just family or government structure...

But trying to come up with a definition made me realize just how vast and encompassing the term "culture" actually was and how many things together make up the culture of a group or civilization. It made me really curious to learn how anthropologists could come form an understanding of something as complicated as an entire culture. (Which was probably the point of the exercise.)

The next class was Archeology 101 with David Carballo, and I was incredibly excited for the chance to actually study archeology in school for the first time in my life after reading about it on my own time since 6th grade. Professor Carballo started off by asking how many of the class had gone on a dig before. Several kids raised their hands. I felt a little embarrassed at being surrounded by people who had more experience than I was, but when the professor showed a slide of "Great Discoveries", I was the only one who recognized the Maya creation mural and knew that his colleague Professor Saturno had been the one who had discovered it. So after that, I felt a little bit more confident in my knowledge of archeology.

Once Archeology let out, I had a lot of free time until dinner, and I remembered that Dr. Farouk El-Baz from the Center for Remote Sensing had e-mailed me saying I was free to visit his office at any time, so I decided to go visit the College of Arts and Sciences building and see if he was in. The secretary recognized me from Orientation and told me it was fine if I met with Dr. El-Baz, but he was eating lunch at the moment, so I should come back in an hour.

So I went to print out some of my readings for my classes at the Mugar Memorial Library and then came back. Dr. El-Baz greeted me very warmly and wanted to hear all about my internship at NASA. He was especially happy to hear that I had enjoyed visiting the National Air and Space Museum while I was in DC, because he'd worked there for many years, even before the museum building itself opened. There were a ton of cool things in Dr. El-Baz's office, including a photomural of the space shuttle behind his desk and a cartouche with his name written out in hieroglyphics. He even introduced me to one of his assistants in the Center for Remote Sensing and added "It's her very first day and she already knows she wants to do remote sensing!"

Finally, I had to leave, but Dr. El-Baz invited me to come back to see him any time I wanted. I walked out into the sunlight grinning from ear to ear.

This was definitely the best first day of school ever.