Comparative Education

Yes, folks.  We are STILL on our college tour.  We have now been on the road for ten days.  We have visited seven schools in seven states, plus one federal district.  We have rented four cars, taken three flights, one train and one bus.  And at the moment, we are currently at Logan International Airport (with free Wifi and rocking chairs), happily waiting for a Southwest flight to Chicago (which we hope won't have holes in the fusilage), where we connect to St. Louis (which GC hopes won't be a "lame" city), where we visit the fabled WashU.

We have met up with five of our older son CJ's childhood friends, all now young adults/apartment dwellers, who have shown GC the real side of college life at their universities.  And we have run into countless other kids from the SoCal area.  At Wesleyan, GC attended the info session with five kids from his chem class.  And at Penn, GC hugged and/or fist pumped a whole tour bus of students from our rival high school. 

This morning, GC almost attended a Comparative Education class at Brown with CJ's former soccer buddy CE (Crossword Expert, whose many accomplishments include writing Monday and Friday puzzles for the NY Times, and being a long-time reader of this blog).  But the class met at 9:00 am, not in the cards for GC.  A pity, because our trip has been a living comparative education lab.  Here are some of the superlatives:

MOST OUTSTANDING TOUR GUIDE – MIDWEST – Aforementioned Atlanta native at Northwestern.

MOST OUTSTANDING TOUR GUIDE – NORTHEAST – Mr. Diction, a Brown junior from the suburbs of Boston.  As our umbrellas were turned inside out by gusty winds, Mr. D, a DJ on campus and varsity rower, convinced us all that Brown was heaven with "the happiest students on earth."  And he clearly had taken a creative non-fiction course: Instead of instructing us to notify him if he was about to "hit something" while walking backwards (like the tour guides everywhere else) he told us to let him know if he was about to "fall off a cliff."

BUSIEST STUDENT – Another one of the Brown tour guides, originally from Cincinnati.  She recently petitioned the administrtion and instituted a subsection of a department, focusing on Developing Regions of the World.  A four-year volleyball varsity player, she also builds houses for Habitat for Humanity in Uganda, and has overseen reasearch in Ecuador. And she is a Peer Advisor as well as a tour guide.  (All this at a school that, like the others, advises prospective high school students to stick to one or two extracurriculars).

BEST MEAL – Most were decent, good or great, except the fast food in Midway.  Standouts include the Q Shack in Durham, Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor, Red Stripe Brasserie in Providence and Eataly in NY.

BEST FOOD ON CAMPUS – Penn, by far.  The sushi in the student union may not be quite on the level of Nobu, but it is a cut above Whole Foods.  And the stir fry looked just as tasty.  Plus there are food trucks lining the perimeter of the campus with very exotic-looking offerings.


WORST WEATHER – Tie between Ann Arbor, Evanston (both in the teens) and Providence (wind and rain).

BEST WEATHER – Glorious spring in Durham (no contest)


MOST EMBARASSING MOMENT – Mr. NP (who met us in Durham) has a Droid restaurant app that made a slot machine sound during an info session.


Q: What percentage of professors during a given semester are actually teaching? 

A:  All professors teach undergraduate courses.

Q: Yes, I know that, BUT, I asked SPECIFICALLY how many teach during a given semester.  Suppose there are fifty professors.  What percentage of them are actually teaching in a given semester?

A: Well, you can ask that question to the Dean of Admissions.

(I didn't get this at all…This was at a school with academic awesomeness: why would anyone care if all the professors didn't teach every semester?)

MOST ACRONYMS: Georgetown (a few of the many examples: GERMS- Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Service; GULC -Geogetown University Law Center; CHARMS – Campus Housing Roomate Matching System) 

MESSIEST LIVING SITUATION: That would be our older son CJ's dorm. 

MOST TEDIOUS EXPLANATION:  A detailed description about the difference between Varsity, Club and Intramural sports.  We usually endured this lesson twice at each college, once by the admissions dean and once by the tour guides.     

NEWEST TREND ON CAMPUS: Quidditch, a cappella groups and neuroscience are so 2009.  Nowadays you hear more about sustainable dorms, Robots who have heart attacks, and Ultimate.  But Michigan still brags about its squirrel club.

MOST DIVERSITY: One of our student info session leaders was named Hamlet. What's in a name? Clearly, his parents knew this would help get him into a top school. 







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