I never planned to take geology in college. I knew nothing about earth science and was perfectly fine leaving things that way. I was just never interested in rocks. In fact, I dodged the earth science part of middle school curriculums when I switched schools in seventh grade. My mom taught earth science, and seeing the ordinary, dusty specimens of her students’ rock collections assured me that I hadn’t missed anything.
If I’d gone anywhere but Caltech, it’s likely that this would all be true for the rest of my life. But here I am, riding a bus through Owens Valley in Eastern California, my notebook filled with hasty notes on shale and sandstone, normal and reverse faults, and bentonite and rhyolite. This is the Ge 1 Field Trip—a three-day journey around California to walk across faults, see (inactive) volcanoes, explore a caldera, and much more. Ge 1 is one of several options to fulfill Caltech’s menu class requirement, and, largely because of this trip, it’s the most popular.
A glance out the window
We left campus at noon today and are now an hour from camp—and dinner. Along the way, we stopped at the San Andreas Fault and Red Rock Canyon State Park. The past couple hours, we’ve been on the road. We’re walled in by mountains—the dark, angular, snow-capped peaks of the Sierras on my left and the more distant White Mountains on my right. A TA told me that as a geologist, part of her job will be to go on hiking trips. Now I wonder why I haven’t seriously considered majoring in geology. There have been people who switched into the major after this class. Who knows, maybe I’ll join them.
Starting college can be a big transition. You’re moving to a new place, starting a new school and classes, and faced with making new friends in an unfamiliar environment. And, of course, there’s that whole “becoming an adult” thing. But, you’re also leaving a lot behind. Every new beginning means that an old chapter must come to an end. Leaving behind our friends at home may seem difficult, especially if they’re going to be a long distance away from you during the school year. Something I made sure to do was to spend a lot of time with them during the summer after high school. Of course, going to college doesn’t mean you’ll never see your friends again, or that you will no longer be friends with them. Good friendships will last if you put effort into them. It may seem hard initially. Coming into Caltech, it’s a sharp adjustment and many are caught up in the excitement of Orientation, Rotation, and starting classes. It may be hard to remember to check your phone frequently and to make time for phone calls and such. Rest assured that if you have other friends going to college, they’re probably going to go through similar things you will. In this transition period, it can feel like you’re going to immediately lose touch with people that mean a lot to you.
Let’s face it: the US loves being just a little different from everyone else. The obvious example? Units of measurement. As an international student from Canada, even I have no clue what’s going on half the time when my friends talk to me and use these weird nonsensical units. And I’ve literally lived on the border between Canada and the States for all my life. After a year here, I’ve finally got a sense of how the two systems of measurement compare and how you can more easily get your bearings with these weird units.
After a year spent in “soft-lockdown” at home in Atlanta, and as Caltech students prepared to finally return to campus, I was aboard an eight hour flight towards Edinburgh, Scotland. Since my junior year plans were interrupted by the virus who shall not be named, I’m spending my first term of senior year studying abroad through the Caltech - Edinburgh University International Exchange program. I’ve only been here just over a week yet have been exposed to so many new people, perspectives, foods, and classes.
When the announcement was first made that fall term was going to be online, I started talking to friends and looking for places to live. We were debating locations around the country: California, Florida, New York, etc.. there were plenty of options. Then it suddenly hit me, what is stopping us from going to Hawaii, covid numbers were better and a two week quarentine would ensure that numbers stayed down… I proposed this to my friend and we agreed it would be an amazing experience, but we didn’t want to get out hopes up. A month or so later we still haven’t decided where to live, Hawaii seemed too far and too difficult to plan. But we couldn’t get the idea out of our heads. We spent some time looking into plane tickets, places to stay, etc… and it actually didn’t seem so impossible after all. A couple weeks later and we were arriving here on the big island!