Aristotle University: First Impressions
This is definitely a big university. A large confusing campus and a lot of people milling around. That would be bad enough in any country but add to that signs that aren’t in your language, or that even use the same alphabet as you. All told, I have mixed feelings about this university.
It might be a bit early to tell, but at the moment the campus is beyond my comprehension both inside and out. If I could get my hands on a map that is in English I’m sure that would be a start, but even still, with the overall general state of disrepair everywhere, it can be hard to tell one deteriorating, graffiti-covered building from another. There is a nice looking tower building of some sort that looks kind of like a round, tall Dalhousie Computer Science Building (metal and glass with a modern design).
The inside of the buildings that I’ve been in – about four I’d say – have all been a bit blasé. Some even border on dirty. Not to say that Dalhousie had the greatest buildings and I’d say there were some at Reading that were this bad, but in general I sense a real lack of respect for the school and its buildings.
Well, we were shown a couple of computer labs, but all of them were locked so I haven’t had a chance to really see much. I’ve been told that we will be able to use the computer rooms soon (possibly tomorrow) which would be nice. Of course they aren’t sure if we can hook up our laptops to the network, we were told to unplug the PCs and try plugging the cord into our laptops. We might have to hard code the IP, which I’m OK with as long as it works. :) Finding a place to access the Internet from with my laptop is really becoming a holy grail style search for me (and a couple of my friends). There was a place called e-Global which is an Internet cafe and they said that they were planning on doing something like that in a month. So that might be an avenue. The only problem is that it is up by the university so it isn’t a quick trip.
Focusing back on the university, the lecture theatre that we were in was fairly nice. It had a bit of a bunker feel to it, but the seats were comfortable (which was good for the four hours we were in there this morning). The other place where we have classes is the Common Central computer room in the Library. We didn’t go in because it was locked, but at least there is some prescribed time in front of a computer. I’m all about the hands-on. :)
One of the things I was excited about after spending all morning in class on an empty stomach was getting lunch. I wasn’t sure what type of facilities were available and therefore ended up missing breakfast. Lunch is provided to the students for free – sort of. After walking around campus to the point where I’m not certain if I will be able to find my way back, we ended at one of the two places where we could eat. If a made any bad comments about the cafeteria in Reading, I take it back, granted we did pay for that. When we got upstairs in the building with the food, we were greeted by a tiny window where they slid a tray out at you. On the tray was a couple of pieces of bread, a foam cup filled with vinegar covered vegetables and a bowl of beans – I think. Nothing to drink, and I thought Nenad was about to melt at the thought that his lunch was a child’s appetizer. Although I heard the term prison mess hall muttered a few times by my disbelieving and hungry colleagues, everyone sat down and ate something. Fortunately they did have a bunch of oranges and apples to choose from so even the couple of people who didn’t brave the strange tray of food were able to get something. The bowl of whatever wasn’t too bad and went well with the bread. The orange I had was tasty and seedless and I even found a fountain to rinse my sticky fingers. It wasn’t a lot, but it was free, so I guess I can’t really complain. Combine my light lunches with a good 25 minute walk to school and another one coming back, add in the cheap bottled water and oranges I bought and I might have a fighting chance at getting into some sort of shape over the next couple months.
Here is an area which I feel things will be OK, which is good because isn’t this the whole reason we are here? We have had two classes so far: one on PHP and the other on Data Mining. The PHP class is going to very much be a gentle introduction to the language and related concepts. It was extremely boring this morning and I’m not a huge fan of the way that the professor is teaching it. NOT that I’m volunteering to do so, but I think that I could do a better job with the appropriate preparation. He doesn’t seem all that enthused about being up there teaching it. Maybe it was the fact that it was a second language for him. In any case, the professor for the second class was really good. He had a survey to get an idea of where everyone in the class was and to get to know the students a bit more personably. I liked that and in general, he seemed a bit more energetic and happy. There is a second professor who will be teaching with him later and we met him today as well. He is very keen on making sure that we have a smooth time in Greece. Maybe I should tell him it would be a lot smoother if I could just get my damn laptop on the internet. :P
In general, the courses we are taking this term are starting to aim a bit more towards eCommerce and will attempt to give us some of the tools to do work in this area. Some of the tools I already have, but some of the computational intelligence and data mining stuff promises to be interesting.
Overall I feel like it will certainly be a different and eye-opening experience and at the end of the day, that is the whole idea of this program. :)