The first weeks at ITU
(Written for the readIT magazine)
In this article I´ll try to convey some of my impressions of ITU from the perspective of a foreigner. I´m aware that it is always easier to criticize than to applaud (and usually more fun) so please take this text with a grain of salt.
So far, so good
So far the IT University has lived up to my expectations. The courses are engaging, the teachers professional and my fellow students are ambitious and interesting. I was especially impressed with the introduction week, which I thought was very well organized and the test projects we were given were stimulating and fun - and a good warm up for the group work that since has followed. (The introductions I´m more used to from my previous studies went something like "welcome to your new school, now you figure it out".)
Friday Bar (without food)
The Friday bar is simply a brilliant concept and has quickly become the cornerstone of my social life in the new country. Some of my Danish colleagues complain the bar locale isn´t "hyggelig" enough, but since I tend to focus more on my beer and the conversations (these being mostly in Danish I really have to concentrate) the surroundings haven´t bothered me. I think the bar would really make a killing (figuratively speaking of course) if it offered some sandwiches or pizza slices, since there actually seems to be a limit on how long you can survive on beer and peanuts without grave consequences.
I´m still waiting to see any interesting uses for the green and red blink boxes in the atrium. So far their only purpose seems to be to fascinate newcomers for about two minutes and to distract and annoy all students trying to actually work on the prison-style balconies. I suspect that somewhere there is some brilliant artwork just waiting to enrich our lives in green and red so I´ll wait patiently. The green ones have recently started spelling out text comments, but the red ones keep on madly blinking in a tempo more suitable to a disco than a work place.
Greasy Dwarf Fingers
Another thing I´m also waiting for is for Facilities Management to catch the Danish house dwarfs that seem to roam the premises at night. For some reason all the computer monitors are covered in very annoying fingerprints. I have to assume the monitors are regularly and thoroughly cleaned and since persons studying for their masters or PhD must know better than to touch monitors with greasy fingers, the only logical explanation has to be that some kind of Danish house dwarfs run around at night and smear up the monitors. (For the record I´d like to state that although Icelanders are widely known to believe in elves, that generally does not include dwarfs -- they are more of a continental phenomenon.)
The Trouble of Troubled Computers
Attached to the smudgy monitors you can often find a non-operational computer. The most popular symptom seems to be some variant of the "unable to load your profile" epidemic that somehow tends to spread from one computer to the next. As a result you often find yourself sitting down at several computers in a row, trying to log in without any success. If you persist and finally find a computer that is able to locate your profile, you can then observe student after student repeating your attempts with similar results. In an ideal world I assume all these problems would be immediately reported to SysAdm, but in order to be able to send them an e-mail you first have to log in. Thus, instead of noting the numbers of the troubled computers on a piece of paper and then e-mail a detailed error report from a working computer, most students (myself included) tend to consider this a NRMP (Not Really My Problem) or simply curse in our native language and give up.
As we Icelanders are generally believed to be a friendly and peace-loving nation I´m going to resist the temptation to describe my suggestions of corporal punishment to those who lock the computers and then leave. Besides, such a description might get me in trouble with the police.
Flushing in the study room
One of the things that have surprised me in the past weeks is the fact that the study room on the first floor usually is almost empty (which of course suits the few of us that use it just fine). A part of the explanation might be that some students don´t seem to be aware of the fact that there is a 1st floor in the building, let alone a study room. Another part might be a really annoying design fault that irritates everyone trying to concentrate on studying in the room.
Among the numerous pipes and cables visible up in the ultra-techno ceiling are the sewer pipes from the toilets above. Although aluminium foil might give these pipes some techno-aesthetic quality it is a totally useless noise isolation. Every time a toilet is flushed on the 2nd floor everyone in the study room hears it loud and clear and I´d go so far as to say that everyone also has a pretty good guess what sort of ... substance is being flushed. Soundproofing this shouldn´t be that hard, and I encourage someone from Facilities Management to try spending a few minutes in the study room and enjoy the acoustic experience.
To summarize I´m very pleased with my decision to come and study at ITU. These first weeks have gone better than expected and although there are many things one can criticize in the new building, I find it a stimulating place to work. I´m looking forward to the next two years in an exciting environment with even more interesting people.