Monday, February 17, 2014

5 Lil' (Tech) Things That Make My College Life Easier

In Fall 2011, I moved into an old dormitory from the 1920s. The doors, locks and the lighting seemed reminiscent of its time. As much as I basked in the luxury of living in a "vintage" room, I insisted on spending the first few days of school shuttling back and forth to Bed, Bath and Beyond, a retail store that sells bed sheets, lamps, pots and pans, as well as "college stuff". One part of living in the 21st century is that we are one step closer to commercializing every single moment in our lives. Certain amenities were created especially for dorm rooms, which of course made the transition much easier. Even though, today's college experiences is not without it's difficulties, the little things in life symbolizes the stark differences between the past and the present.

Before I move on with the list, it would only be appropriate to begin by talking about Sarah Lawrence, in particular. A late comer, SLC was first introduced as an all girls school in the 20s. Today, for a majority of SLC students, Bates is where we complain about bad food, search endlessly for obscurely named class rooms, and share Nutella milkshakes. In the late 20s, this building also housed maids' quarters, laboratories, and art facilities. Perhaps, this explains why one of the most prominent meeting rooms at Bates is still called the "Painting Room". Nevertheless, almost a century ago, SLC girls were able to bring maids. Nowadays, the closest thing we have to maids are a paid laundry service, which is not as popular as our infamous laundry rooms, where socks go to die and jeans go to disappear. With time, comes change. In the mid-60s, SLC became co-educational. With men on campus, comes conversations about gender assigned bathrooms and an increase in athletics, which remains to be a hot topic to this day.

This is not an ancient artifact, though email certainly makes it look like one.
As you can imagine, the college experience has evolved. Nowadays, big stores in the U.S. have an entire section dedicated to college life. Certain clothing brands, such as Under Armor and Brooks Brothers produce apparel pieces with names of colleges attached on to it. For instance, you can buy shoes with a logo of Harvard on it or a sweatshirt with the SLC mascot attached. College memorabilia has become a large part of American society, allowing people to express their sentiments publicly.

Yet, today I will talk about the little things in life that I have gone to appreciate after three years of college. As a freshman I came to the U.S. totally blindsided. In the back of my head, I was certain that things would be alright. I forgot to think about the sleeping situation or worst, the bathroom conditions. Am I supposed to wear flip flops each time I take a shower or what? The little things, for an anxious person like me, matters and yet I still managed to shove it under the bed and out of my consciousness. Funny thing is, what I have learned whilst compiling the list is that most of the things that have helped me so far are essentially technological in nature. Some of it are not as tangible as others, making it much easier for me to ignore it until today.

1. Laptops. When my parents and I toured college campuses, my mom used to reminisce on the days of desktop computers and floppy disks, then my dad would insist on how lucky I was to be going to college today. Personal laptops have only made school much easier. Of course, I didn't believe them until I was stuck in because of a snow storm and I had to write a paper. Instead of walking over to the library in the freezing cold, I was able to finish all of my assignments while staying warm.
             As a couch potato, it never entered my mind that I would spend the next four years without a TV, one that I could carelessly flip through and hog for an entire afternoon. Actually, I dodged that panic attack because I had my laptop to act as my TV. With all the programs available on-line and on-demand viewing, I was home free. Of course, this brought on other ramifications such as not socializing, but when you are jet-lagged, you will thank your lucky stars that How I Met Your Mother is just one-click away.
           Laptops also maintains your privacy to a certain degree. It allows you to save all of your belongings and precious drafts without the hassle of floppy disks or USB drives. Even with all this ease, we still lose our damn files hours before its due. Fudge!

Notebook? This is a notebook! I don't get it!
2. The Internet. Believe it or not, merely a decade ago, Internet was not available to most college students. Even if they were, you could only access it on communal computers. Today, whenever the WiFi slows down or pauses completely, everyone freaks out like it's the apocalypse. Well in some ways, it is the end of the world, isn't it? Nowadays, I can go to PubMed or PsycINFO to find articles from way back when. Certain scholarly materials are also available online first, before it is published in a journal.  There are so much information out there that we have to learn how to specifically maneuver the Internet. When researching articles for a literature review, we are briefed especially in order attain above the standard texts.
           Beyond academia, the Internet has allowed for more effective communication. In the past month alone, New York experienced three snow storms. Without the Internet or another technology advancement, such as text messaging, schools may not be able to reach its students in time that school is cancelled. On each floor of my freshman year dorm, there is a communal phone. Rumor has it these phones were used to connect professors and students. However, one could plainly see the endless possibilities for miscommunication, as anyone could pick up the phone whenever it rings or it would not be answered at all.
           Other advantages of the Internet that I believe, pertain to college is that it provides timely information to incoming students, is a gateway to additional extracurricular activities, and connects students whenever they are in need. If I had a penny for every person who announced on facebook that they needed a hug ASAP...

3. Cell Phone Culture. In high school, cell phones were strictly prohibited. Students had to place their phones with a teacher at the very beginning of the day and pick it up afterwards. However, in college, cell phones are everywhere. And with the assistance of today's smartphones, students are able to refrain from taking notes and choose to snap a photo instead. Cell phones are also used to look up certain material in the middle of the class, especially when the professor goes on a tangent, which he/she has clearly failed to prepare for. Ultimately, when used for "good", these devices help us in becoming more effective students.

4. On-line Shopping. Bronxville, where SLC is located, is quite rural, however we still have a tiny downtown and we are only forty minutes away from Manhattan, tops. Nevertheless, as a shopaholic with chronic back pain, due to scoliosis, I have opted to go shopping on-line. It saves energy and could also save you some bucks, as many online stores offer regular promotions, including free shipping. Online shopping might be seen as an extension of the Internet, however it has not caught up in other parts of the world that remains connected by the world wide net. American culture, or American college culture, I believe, fuels the growth of the online shopping industry. Today, it is hard to find a store that isn't available online. Now, if only they had an online shop for Indonesian condiments and snacks!

5. Take Out. As hard as it is to believe, take out was invented by mankind, just like restaurants. New York City is well known for its around the clock Chinese take out. However, when you live a few miles away and still have a range of options, your diet will be way better off, or worse. Hmm... During my first year of college, I managed to avoid complaining about cafeteria food. After a summer at Brown University, I appreciated the range of options I had at Bates, yet by sophomore year, I was fed up. I didn't really have a kitchen to cook and I was unable to tolerate continuous meals at the cafeteria any longer. Here is where take out comes in handy. Despite it's limited options, Bronxville has some Italian restaurants, Pizza parlors and Asian food places. There was enough choices to satisfy my bored stomach. Without take out, I'd probably developed a darker attitude on life earlier than I have.

College experience is often lumped together, despite its multifaceted nature. These are just some things that I found handy during my time at SLC. Others may agree or disagree, but I think we have had our own love affair with technology. Moreover, with love affairs comes break ups and fights. Obviously, technology has its downsides, but I am certain that my college experience would be totally different without it.

*Author owns rights to the photos above

1 comment:

  1. It is actually very difficult to find a Chinese food place open around the clock in NYC!