Chapter 3: The College Years
So, the summer is half over and I had just gained my powers, sort of. I was done with high school and with nothing better to do was going to head to college in the upcoming fall. Well it was either that or try to find a mediocre job doing menial tasks. Not for me, I had a higher calling.
Of course going to college had always been in the plans. My grades were high enough that most any school would accept me. So during the first few months of my senior high school year I applied at quite a few schools. My dream, at that point, was to go for a science or computer related degree. Preferably both. So I sent my applications to those schools that had good programs for both. Some of these schools were in-state, such as Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, and Michigan Tech, and some were out of state, such as Caltech, MIT, and Purdue.
I received acceptance to many but had yet to make a decision. I thought about my choices through most of my senior year but it wasn't until after my 18th birthday that I made a decision. At the time I had only felt a push to go to one particular school, but now I know that it was Sol helping me to build my future. So I made my final decision, I was going to go to the University of Michigan.
College, university, a school of higher learning. Four, or five, years of learning from those who really know there stuff. At least that's what usually happens. For me things happened quite differently but I'll get to that a bit later.
I started my college years as most 18 year old freshmen do, by moving into my assigned dorm along with over 9,000 other freshmen. I happened to do this on the worst day possible, the Saturday before classes started. As you can imagine this ended up with the streets and parking lots being packed with students trying to get moved in and parents helping. Not the best decision I ever made.
My dorm room ended up being on the 2nd floor of the East Quadrangle, which I shared with my roommate whose name I never ended up remembering. He was one of those types that always seemed to be in the background and as such we were never anything other than roomies.
And so my freshman year began. I took mostly general education courses, math, languages, etc, but also took one course each from my two possible majors, computer science and astronomy. I had a general interest in both and wanted to see which professor would be the best so I worked my entire schedule around those two classes, each with one of the respective departments full time professors.
The astronomy course was a basic intro to the field kinda course and included some theory and observations. Although I found out that my little telescope was too small to use, there were plenty of others available including the universities own observatory. While the class was fun the professor was really a sight to see. It was plain to see that he enjoyed teaching others about his chosen profession and was not put off by simple questions, dumb or otherwise.
The computer science course ended up being an intro to C++. I found out quickly that computer languages were difficult at best but not so hard that it put me off. I learned and did well, a B+ in the end, but the professor did not seem as happy teaching this as I expected. Compared to the astronomy professor this guy was a real let down.
So come the second semester I choose my major, Astronomy. I also, thanks to the discovery of anime, ended up choosing a minor of Asian Languages and Culture. However to this day I still wonder, how much of this choice was mine and how much was it influence from Sol?
Life continued on in school. I took my classes, continued to exercise, joined a mixed martial arts club and anime club, and even saw some football and hockey games. While I did not have to I also took a part time job in one of the local dojos assisting the sensei with basic classes. It paid enough so that I never had to worry about spending money.
Being as busy as I was the first year flew by with only the Christmas holidays as a speed bump halfway through. I was learning many new things in Astronomy, Math, and two new languages, Japanese and Mandarin.
After the first year finished I went back home and took the summer off doing some basic work and having a bit of fun. But before I knew it my Sophomore year had begun.
Although I could have gone back to the East Quadrangle this time I had friends and we all decided early on in the winter to get a house together. This turned out to be a good thing in the long run as my housing and food costs dropped tremendously. We had everything that we needed and as most of them were in the same major we had many a good night staring at the stars.
About halfway through the 1st semester my Japanese and Mandarin professors both made a very similar announcement. The chance to spend most of the summer break in the respective country living and learning at a language immersive school. This was huge and I wanted to go to both but had to make a decision quickly as their were only a small number of spots available. I was torn between my enjoyment of anime and a chance to see its birthplace and my new-found love of ancient Chinese culture. Luckily I heard of another opportunity that would be available in my senior year to explore the "back woods" of China with one of the Chinese culture professors. So knowing of this future opportunity I made my choice and decided to go to Japan for an entire summer, well most of one.
Once again the year went by quickly but this time my focus was on the summer trip. I took care of all the preparation by January, passport, visa, and plans to see everything that I possibly could. I took as many side jobs as I could to get extra spending money and ended up having almost $2,000 available by the time we left. I wanted to see it all, Tokyo and its many wards, Mt Fuji, Hokkaido, and especially the Peace Park in Hiroshima. Of course what plan ever survives in real life. Because of the location of the school, in Osaka, and the pace of the classes I had very little time to see everything that I wanted to. But I still had fun and came back one term ahead of the rest of my classmates.
My first two years were over with. I was halfway done and having more fun than I though possible. I had found friends in both of my clubs, my classes, and even through the games that I watched. But at the start of my third year things began to change. Although my classes and "extra-curricular" activities continued as normal, those friends that I made started to actively ignore and even ridicule me. I had no idea why and no one would tell me. I hadn't changed my attitude, I didn't start telling people off, and I definitely wasn't skipping any showers. But STILL I lost friends and acquaintances faster than a tree loses its leaves in the fall. But all was not lost. While I lost those of my own age, I gained the respect, admiration, and even friendship of one of my professors. Specifically it was my Mandarin and Chinese Culture professor, Dr. Wu.
Just like the previous year my language professors once again offered trips to Japan and China. However Dr. Wu took me aside and offered me a trip that usually only a Senior would get a shot at, a trip to inland China to assist an archeological dig as a translator. To make it sound even better he added that it would count as 8 credits, 4 per semester. This was unprecedented in the departments history so I was very much wondering what was going on and I asked Dr. Wu as much. He explained that my excellent grades, enthusiasm in class, and quick learning of the material were all pluses towards his decision to offer a part in the trip.
Now you're probably thinking that I had no reason to go on this trip. And at the time I would agree wholeheartedly. But I soon found out that most of the big decisions that would point me in the proper direction, at least as far as she was concerned, were made by Sol. My parents move to Michigan, my going to UofM, the Astronomy major and minor in Asian cultures/languages. And of course the trip to China. All of these decisions, and more, had a single option that would have gone in the same direction as Sol wanted my life to be. Hold up, don't want to get to far into this tangent. Back to the main story.
So I was offered the trip. And, as if it was meant to be, I took the opportunity that it was and signed up for the trip. Unlike the trip to Japan there was no need for extra money as the expedition would take care of everything, that and there was no such thing as a "free weekend" for this trip. All I had to do this time was get to Beijing.
So the year continued as the others before it. The only big difference was the trip that constantly weighed on my mind. In response to it I studied extra hard with my Mandarin and in the end was good enough to pass at a high school graduate level, at least in a spoken comprehensive manner.
Because of the constant thought of the trip and the near-constant studying the thought of being abandoned by my friends went by the wayside. I was on my own for most everything and by the time Christmas came around I didn't even think of most of my so called friends. Those few that stuck around, about 3 or 4, wished me a Merry Christmas and I headed home for the holidays.
As you noticed I only barely mentioned the holidays before so why now? Mostly it's due to the fact of what happened during the trip but also because it's something I have yet to touch on.
Every year my parents would invite as many relatives as could come. Most of the time it ended up being us, my uncle who sold us the house and his family, my aunt from Detroit, and my uncle that lives near Ann Arbor. The majority of the rest of the family never made it due to being so far away, anywhere from North Carolina to Alaska, but I did sometimes see my uncle from Chicago and my uncle from Pittsburgh. Of course with so many people, the two uncles and aunt from Michigan always brought their families, the dinners were something to behold. We even broke a table one year due to some poor planning in food placement. But this party always occurred either the weekend before or after Christmas Day. So the actual celebration of Christmas, with presents and church, was a quite affair.
This Christmas, before I left for China, was a good one in all respects. My parents got me a few things to take with me, including a book of the most used characters of Simplified Chinese and a guide book for Beijing as I would have a few days to explore.
After Christmas I continued on with my studies and completed my exams with, as expected, an A- average for the year, stupid speech professor had to go and flub my average.
Exactly one week later I was on a 747 on my way to China.
Sailor Sol - Chapter 3
August 11, 2013
Another chapter down, many to go. Next one should be longer and will include dialog, here's hoping I don't flub it up.
Thanks to those who have added the story, and myself, as favorites and/or follows. Still looking for those elusive reviews.
Also, if anyone wants to beta this, if you think it needs it that is, let me know.