Photos by Linda Marion and Chris Carlston. Thanks to Kris Koford for his assistance with this article.
NOTE: Continuum asked student David Giroux to track his first term on campus. What follows are excerpts from his “first-year journal.”
The University of Utah has been a part of me since I was born. In fact, I was conceived on campus on the seventh floor of Medical Towers, which is just across from the dorms that I now call home. My parents were students at the University when I was born, so much of my childhood was spent on campus.
When I was deciding where to go for school, it was primarily between the University of Utah and Arizona State University. One of my biggest attractions to ASU was that it would be something new and exciting. But when I came to the U, I was not met with what I expected. The U hasbeen new and exciting. Even though I grew up with it, there is something about being here that is indescribable, and cannot be appreciated until you are a student. Moving In
Getting ready to move into the dorms was almost as much of an adventure as moving in was. I had to buy things that I never really had to think about before: toothpaste, toothbrushes, a vacuum, hangers, sheets, laundry detergent, trash cans, and all sorts of other things that were just there all of my life.
I got to choose exactly which room I wanted to live in through WebRoomz, a new online system that was introduced this year. In addition to allowing me to pick my own room, on the WebRoomz Web site, I could read profiles about prospective roommates and request that certain people come live in my suite. In the end, my roommates and I chose to live with each other, and it all worked out very well.
My room is large enough for a desk with a large computer, a dresser, a twin bed (I have a bunk bed and use the top bunk for extra storage and for guests), a floor lamp, a large Papasan chair, a bookcase, a refrigerator, a microwave, and a large closet, all with plenty of room to spare!
I registered online for my classes over the summer at freshman orientation. When you are ready to pay for tuition, you don’t need to go and stand in a huge line. You can simply pay online with your credit card. All of the professors tell you what books you will need for the classes right when you register, and you can even order the books online. Then you just pick the books up at the bookstore or have them mailed to you.
I registered for 15 credit hours my first semester. I took Math 1090, Business 1010, LEAP Seminar UGS 1100, LEAP Writing 2010, and Accounting 1420. Luckily, I already had 54 credit hours from high school, and all of my general education requirements were waived. Since I essentially started school where most juniors are, I am now hoping to do two degrees instead of one: finance and marketing.
LEAP is a freshman cohort program designed to help make the transition from high school to college easier on students. The classes are very small, and the material seems more advanced. The personal connections I’ve made with my professors and my classmates are very valuable to me. LEAP has been one of the best decisions I’ve made so far at the University.
Campus life is great, for the most part. I love the energy that comes from living here. But one of my biggest complaints is the food. I pay nearly $3,000 a semester to live up here, and almost half of that money goes to pay for my mandatory food plan. I don’t use anywhere near the amount of meals that I actually pay for. I am not on campus enough to justify it. I work a lot, and I eat out a lot with friends.
The amenities in the rooms are awesome. Each room comes with cable TV—not just basic cable, either, but expanded cable, and four channels of HBO. The room also has high-speed Internet access. The Internet connection is faster than DSL or cable connections. The rooms also have climate control. This makes my life so much more comfortable!
For me, there is one primary way to get around campus: I drive. I have a very full schedule after classes, so I need to drive pretty much straight from class to other meetings.
Driving around campus used to be easier, but now there is a light rail train line running up South Campus, narrowing it to one lane in each direction between University St. and about 1550 East. To make matters worse, the intersection of South Campus and Guardsman Way is a one-lane roundabout. Also, because of the train, light cycles at the intersection of Wasatch Drive and South Campus Drive can take up to three or four minutes, or longer, depending on the time of day. The train creates a traffic tangle.
I tried the campus shuttle system for a couple of days, but it just didn’t work out for me. My friends tell me it’s a great place to meet girls, but I still don’t use it. Because traffic on campus is so terrible, you can’t count on the shuttle to be on time.
There is one other major transportation issue—parking. All of the spots in the student parking lot near my classes are full around an hour before the class starts. When I get there, students are circling the lots like birds of prey waiting to kill.
School and Work
Over the summer of 2003 I took a job at ANC Rental Corporation (now Vanguard Car Rental USA). I worked a full time schedule, but once school started again in late August, I needed to cut back on my work hours significantly so that my schoolwork wouldn’t suffer. So, I started school making half as much money as I had over the summer, and with expenses that far exceeded my summer spending.
I have had to borrow excessively this semester to pay for tuition and fees and housing expenses. On top of the federal loans that I took out to help cover these expenses, I had to take out a short term loan to cover the difference between what the federal loan would cover and the balance owed. I also had to buy a new computer, and I needed to replace my old car, so I borrowed for that as well.
Since I owe nearly $8,000 already, and would have to borrow heavily again next semester, I plan on working full time starting in mid- December. Besides the extra time and money, Vanguard will reimburse my tuition and books. This will allow me to pay down my debts, and to save up money for fall 2004, when I will go back to part-time employment.
Social Life and School Spirit
The University has long been a commuter campus where people would come to go to class but wouldn’t stay around for much else. When I came up here I was glad to see that this is changing.
During the first week after move-in, there were several activities at the residence halls, including a karaoke night, a dance, a movie night, an improv comedy troupe, a barbecue, and more.
Each floor is required to elect a floor president, someone who participates in the Residence Halls Association (RHA) meetings and helps plan social activities. Since I was the only person on the floor that volunteered to take this position, I won by default. Then my resident advisor offered me a position on another board.
That board is “Crimson Nights.” Crimson Nights is a huge party that is free for all students. Every month on a Friday night from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m., students can find a plethora of activities, such as a free movie, dancing, crafts, karaoke, live comedy shows, laser tag, and a lot more. It is a high-energy party that draws thousands of students each time.
A lot of this surge in spirit has been because of this year’s football team. Urban Meyer, the new coach, has done a spectacular job creating a great team that has been nationally ranked. This year, everyone was talking about the team. The student section at the games was packed with screaming fans. There is a new energy on campus. It is really starting to feel less and less like a commuter school.
I will be living in the dorms again next semester. In fact I plan on being here next year too. I would love to become a resident advisor in the dorms next year if possible.
Many people have asked me if coming to the University of Utah was the
right decision for me, especially since I almost went to Arizona. I have
no regrets. My first semester here has been a great life experience. I
have loved it! The University of Utah is a part of me now in a new way,
and I am proud of it and excited about it. It’s in my blood.