I was accepted to quite a few schools, including some really good ones like Cornell and University of Pennsylvania, and perhaps I should have taken the opportunity and gone to one of those, but when Stevens Institute of Technology offered my an annual 10K Scholarship I couldn't justifiably go anywhere else. At the very worst, I figured, if I didn't like it I would transfer to another school. That was eventually what happened, as it didn't quite meet up to my expectations.
One teacher asked my why I decided to stay for two years instead of leaving after one, as most people do when they discover the school isn't for them. My answer is that I really did have a good time during my freshman year. Karl became my roommate, and the guys that were on my floor during freshman year were really a great and fun group. Unfortunately, most of them either left the school or entered a fraternity so I never saw them much after freshman year, and consequently I didn't have as good a time during my Sophomore year.
It's important for me to say here that I didn't just leave for social reasons. I thought there were a lot of problems with the school, and the general theory of education was pretty depressing. Generally the students are taught algorithms to solve problems and they learn how to "plug and chug" or solve problems using equations and no real understanding of what's going on. It gets to be very depressing when you go through four semesters of college education and just about every course is an applied mathematics course. Maybe that's just the bane of being an engineer, but it made me decide that I was not where I wanted to be.
I guess this is a good place for a little tirade on Engineering in general. What one is taught in Engineering school is algorithms and equations. A student is expected to learn these things and apply them in a testing situation. There is no creativity. There is very little emphasis on understanding. What happens is that instead of Engineers being the creative masters of how things work, all they know is how to solve equations. This is a major mistake. We now have a tool to do exactly what an engineer is taught to do now, and that tool is the computer. It can solve equations and process algorithms quickly and correctly every time. Engineering will eventually evolve into a field like Architecture or Aeronautical Design, where the important thing is the design, and the computer takes care of the details. The great majority of the Engineers in the world will be forced to relearn their profession as the software tools are developed to make their profession center around computers. It won't take more than ten years.
Okay, back to the topic of social interaction. All of us had a good time that freshman year, learning about computers and college and many other things. Everyone at Stevens is required to buy an MS-DOS compatible computer when they enter, there is no cable TV, and there are very few females, so everyone ends up centering their lives on their computers. We did go into New York pretty often, which was just a short walk and subway ride away, and spent some time in clubs and hanging out in the village. My sophomore year I took an Art History class at NYU. Our hall would occasionally play a completely pointless game called "Betabox" (because most of the kids joined the Beta Theta Pi fraternity) where we would alternately kick, throw, and carry a box from one end of the hallway to the other. Everybody would tackle everyone else, and a good time was had by all. Other than that, there was plenty of hall roller-hockey, basketball, and lacrosse to keep an athlete busy for months at a time. We had a bulletin board of sorts on the school network, and we filled it with 3000 messages in about three months. We played monopoly, judgement, hearts, nuclear war. One of the guys would leave his alarm on continuously and occasionally leave for class with the alarm still on. As a prank, we hooked up batteries to the speaker so it would keep beeping no matter what he did, including unplugging the alarm from the wall. Unfortunately, none of us saw what he did. There was a great sense of cohesion among all of us.
We had tons of diversity. We had a guy who loved his Greek Heritage, rooming with an Italian who loved the Doors. We had a very religious and quiet jewish kid rooming with an asian who could barely speak english, had very rich parents, and dismantled the differential of the jaguar he bought only to sell a few months later. There was a guy from Buffalo who was a big hockey fan and loved Canada rooming with a lacrosse fanatic from Philiadelphia. We had a black guy rooming with a white guy who dated a black girl. We had a bunch of crazy Russians. One would slam bodily into walls for no good reason, and was generally a real bear. We were convinced that another one was a KGB agent. A third one ended up going to Cornell. We had Keat Lim, a Malaysian with a real gift for Unix rooming with Dhiren Shah, an Indian who really knew his way around Dos machines, who first became friends with Anthony Alleva, a genuine Trekkie. We had a guy who was notorious for his unique odor and personal hygene habits, such as blowing his nose in his hands and washing them in the sink, rooming with a guy who loved Mudding so much that he ended up with a 0.0 GPA one semester and dropped out to make $18 dollars an hour working for 3M. Last we heard, he'd proposed to somebody he met in the Mud for a real life marraige. There was a Hungarian from southern New Jersey who owned a purple camaro that he cracked up last summer and really loved rap who roomed with Jeff Wong, an asian from Queens with a real attitude. There was a guy whose life centered around computer chat bbs's. Finally, we come to Chuck, a cool guy who dropped out and might be heading to Ohio State this spring and his roommate Shaun Duff, quite the liberal. A couple of other people deserve mention here whom I really got to know my Sophomore year. Brian Endres, tennis player and generally smart guy, and Albert Yang a guy who was my little brother sophomore year and whose big ideas kept me distracted enough to see my GPA drop.