It's a little strange, and a little humbling, to be in a college classroom again, this time sitting in the desks instead of being the person at the front of the room. It's a little strange to return to the campus where I spent six years, and to return to undergraduate classes. So much has changed. I'm enjoying this time as a participant observer. The sociologist in me can't help but mentally catalog away the things I notice. Some of it, I know, is because I've been away from cities for awhile, and some of it has always been there but I never stopped to notice it.
During my last year at the university (nearly six years ago) I couldn't leave my carrel without running into someone I knew; now I float anonymous in a sea of students.
I'm in a place where girls leave their backpacks sitting outside their stall in the bathroom rather than take them into the tiny stall. They trust that no one will take their backpack with their shiny Apple computer inside.
This will date me, but when I came to college no one had cell phones. Then, rich kids had them. In our apartment there was a big whiteboard where your roommates (hopefully) wrote your messages. I begged my engaged roommates to please answer the call-waiting beep while they were on the phone with their fiancé. I bought my first phone at the end of my junior year. I don't think texting was even invented until after I left campus.
Once there were armies of computers ordered in clean rows in computer labs. I'd go in to write a paper in a massive room filled with computers and students. Now, most students have their own laptop so those big labs have had walls built so that more classes can be held in the room using the computers. A class held in a computer lab used to be exceptionally rare.
We watch a lot of youtube clips in my classes. I never saw a youtube clip in all the years I spent here before.
There's a piano in a big, open lobby in the Student Union. Almost every time I walk through someone is playing. I never noticed it before, but now it amazed me that a students sits down and pounds out some jazz, some classical, some of whatever he or she knows by memory for hundreds of passing students to hear.
Umm, how long have people been wearing tapered pants? I clearly, clearly remember a girl pulling me aside as a freshman or sophomore in high school and asking me why I was wearing tapered blue jeans. She explained to me how out of touch I was with fashion. And now I find myself out of touch all over again.
I can't remember a lot of things about campus, but I can still walk to a bathroom in every single building without even having to think.
When I came to the university a few weeks after high school graduation my professors were old men. Now, I wonder when BYU hired all these handsome academics. I used to check the boy next to me for a wedding ring, now I check my professor.
I realized that if I had a paper and a test of equal weight in a class I would rather get a C on the test and an A on the paper than B's on both.
I argue with my TAs. Sometimes I bring up tricky social theory questions in review sessions partly to test them and see how well they know their stuff.
I hardly know anyone on campus, but I keep seeing the faces of old friends in those who walk around me.
The first boy I ever kissed passed me on campus last week, but didn't recognize me. He's a professor here now.
My how things have changed. But then, some things haven't. I remember being 18 and stopping in my tracks on campus as I watched the sun break over the mountains. I still find myself watching the dawn while students flow around me on their way to somewhere important.