Keeping Busy This Semester

A page from Al-Kitaab, Part One, Lesson 6
A page from Al-Kitaab, Part One, Lesson 6

Fall Semester started and, as expected, the amount of free time I have available has dropped to next to nothing. Of course, that’s partly expected, and partly because I’m taking five classes again to get the most bang for my GI Bill buck.

This semester I’m taking:

  1. Arabic 3
  2. Hebrew 1
  3. Jesus the Jew: a course that looks at the historical situation surrounding the time of Jesus in first century Palestine.
  4. Historiography and Historical Methods: a graduate history course on how to examine and understand historical writing.
  5. Jewish Studies: Independent Study

So far, the classes are pretty good. Arabic 3 is difficult, but not impossible. Hebrew 1 is easy, because basic Hebrew is similar to basic Arabic. Jesus and first century Palestine are fascinating to me, so that’s probably my favorite class this semester. The independent study is just that, so the freedom to choose what to research and write about is outstanding.

The only class that’s not rocking my world this Fall is the graduate history course, and it’s not because the course is bad in any way. I just don’t know anything about American history beyond the rubbish I learned in highschool, so I feel like a fish out of water in the discussions. All of my studies have focused on Middle Eastern and South Asian history, with few exceptions. Nothing wrong with broadening one’s horizons though, and the professor is definitely excellent.

Officially a Full Time Student Again For The First Time in Almost 12 Years (And more snow pictures)

A picture of Townsend Hall at CCNY.

A picture of Townsend Hall at CCNY, prior to all the snowstorms New York City has suffered through over the last month.

Everything went off without a hitch today, other than a lack of sleep due to anxiety.  I woke up at 5 AM and couldn’t fall back asleep, after going to bed at 1 AM.  I’m starting to feel that now, now that the excitement of the day is winding down.

Getting up to CCNY was surprisingly fast this morning.  I had expected there to be delays, due to leftover snow from the snowstorm.  Instead, I got there more quickly than usual, even though I walked two blocks to the nearest subway station to get a MetroCard.  The commute was only an hour, compared to the hour and 15 to 20 minutes it had been taking me before.  I imagine that was partly because I was traveling during the morning rush hour, so there were more trains and buses running.  I’ll allot more time when I head up there for class, just to make sure I have the commute time right.

In my last post I said that the only thing I really had to worry about was busting my ass on the hill going up to the school, and maybe I jinxed myself.  I didn’t completely fall, but I looked like a flailing idiot more than once, scrambling to catch my balance.  Someone I know told me once that Dr. Marten’s are great shoes for jobs where you have to do a lot of standing, but they really don’t have any traction in the snow.  She was completely right.  I need to get some proper snow boots, but it’s probably too late in the season to worry about it now.  I’ll just keep that in mind for next year.  I really need to take a photo of that hill too.

I wound up getting to the school at about 8:20 AM.  I went over to the Veteran’s Affairs office first, to let them know I was there and to ask where I should be going.  Unfortunately, I beat the VA counselors to work, and I stood around in the courtyard for a while scoping out the snow.  It was knee deep in places.

The area these photos are taken in is called the “squad”, or so I was told by a girl that worked in the Gateway Advisory office, which I visited a short while later.  I asked her why, but she didn’t know.  I’m guessing it’s a combination of ‘square’ and ‘quad’ that someone thought was cute, and it just sort of stuck.

After talking to the VA counselor, I got sent over to the Gateway Advisory office.  I showed up there at 10 minutes to 9 and then stood around waiting for that office to open.  When it finally did open, at 9, I found out the advisors didn’t come in and start advising until 9:30.  Not a problem!  I had my Kindle with me.  I’m reading an interesting historical fiction book by GA Henty called The Cat of Bubastes (link to free download on Amazon).  It’s a story about ancient Egypt that’s turning out better than I’d expected.

By about 10 we had discussed the courses still available and I chose the ones that most suit my major and didn’t duplicate something I’ve already taken at another college.  I’ll be taking Introduction to Anthropology, American Government and Politics, Introduction to the Visual Arts of the World, and World Humanities 1, a course about literature from the Greeks up to the 1500s.

What took up so much of my time was getting the financial part of things taken care of:  standing in line to get my bill, then walking back to the VA office for the VA deferral form, then back to the admissions office to stand in line to get the VA form verified, and then standing in line to get the zero balance verified so I could get my student ID is what took up most of my time, not because the walk was long, but because the lines were long.  I was surprised by how many people were there trying to pay their bills.  I had a low priority for registering for classes, and was only allowed to register on the last available day, because I’m taking classes as a non-matriculated student this semester.  I figured most people would’ve finished this all up by now.

Getting my student ID was an interesting experience, and oddly, my first thought was, ‘I wonder if I can use this to get discounts on stuff?’  While I was there, I saw one guy that looked like he was in his 50s getting a student ID, but most of the people there looked too young to even be in college.  Still, it was comforting to know I wasn’t the only ‘older’ person going back to school to get more education.

Anyhow, I’ve got a pretty good schedule.  Except for a 9:30 class on Fridays, all of my classes start in the afternoon.  That means I can still sleep in!  I’m looking forward to kicking things off next week!

Going Back To School After Almost 12 Years

Townsend Harris Hall, City College of New York campus.

My educational record is a little crazy, I suppose.  I took classes part time from both Park University and UMUC while I was in the Army.  Between those classes, the CLEP tests I took, and the college credit value of my military training, I have about 50 or 51 credit hours.  I also have a 3.7 GPA.

I recently heard about the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which is a VA benefit that will allow me to go to school full time, have the tuition and books paid for, and even receive a living allowance (BAH (ignore the warning, the site is legit) at the rate of E-5 with dependents).  I realized that’s a pretty good deal, getting paid to go to school, and I wanted to jump on it as soon as possible.  It’s time to finish my degree!

So, what to do?  Well, I applied for CUNY to start with.  I figure I’ll start out with them and then perhaps at some point in the future I’ll move to another school.  I don’t know.  I suppose it depends on how I like the place.  CUNY is the City University of New York, and is a university that encompasses a large number of colleges scattered around the greater New York City area.

CUNY is also a public college.  It’s not a private school.  I didn’t think I’d have any bumps in the road getting admitted.  So far, though, it’s been nothing but a pain in the ass.  First off, I applied for admission past the deadline.  I wasn’t even back in the US when the deadline passed, actually.  So, my initial application for Hunter College was rejected.  Hunter was already filled and closed to new registrations.  So, I chose CCNY, City College of New York, from the list of schools in the CUNY system that still had openings.  I went to the school and did a direct admission.

This is where things got complicated.  I understood that the other school was full, but when I yet again received a rejection letter from CCNY, stating this time that it was based on my “academic record”, I was more than a little agitated.  Besides the fact that I was running out of time for enrolling, my academic record was more than good enough.  I thought about it, but I just couldn’t figure out what the problem could be.  The only thing I could guess at was that it had something to do with my CLEP tests.  That couldn’t be right though, because CCNY accepted up to 90 credit hours for transfer students.

I decided to go up to the school to figure out what the problem was.  When I got there, I described the issue to the girl at the counter and she went and brought out the person that had sent me the rejection email to better explain what the problem was.  Turns out, it has nothing to do with my academics, per se, so much as the lack of evidence for my math ability.

Eleven years ago, I knew for sure that I was going to join the military and I knew for sure that I was just going to go ahead and do twenty years and retire from it.  I knew I should take the SAT and ACT, so I did, but I didn’t put any effort into them, so the results were crap.  I didn’t really care back then.  Now, something I did eleven years ago has come back around to bite me in the ass.

Since I haven’t taken any college level math courses, my SAT and ACT scores were crap, and I went to high school out of state, meaning they can’t check the regional math score, I was up shit creek in regards to admission as a matriculated CCNY student, 3.7 GPA or not.

The next thing was to discuss options.  There are almost always options and ways to work around things like this, and this situation was no exception.  The VA counselor knew just what to do, and less than 40 minutes later he had me out the door, still on track to start school at the end of January.

You see, I can start taking classes at CCNY as a non-matriculated student, take an online math course from another university, and then have the transcript sent to CCNY.  I could continue to take classes during the summer as a non-matriculated student, but officially enroll and declare a major in the Fall.

This was really the best solution, because it keeps me from wasting time doing a dead end job between now and Fall, it gets me started on my education, and it’ll still allow me to collect on my VA benefit payout.

Hopefully this is the last bump in the road.  I’ll be receiving an email in about two weeks, hopefully, letting me know what to do next in regards to starting classes at the end of the month.  I wish it were sooner, so I could register for classes, get text books and get a head start on studying.