Pros: large, things to do downtown, some good classes and teachers
Cons: large, some huge classes and indifferent teachers
As I wrap up my first year at the University at Albany (UAlbany) I've been thinking about my overall experience here. While there have been negatives (enough to the point that I was seriously considering transferring), there are also many benefits to attending this school.
This is a public, state-run school, so it is considerably less expensive than a private university. It is approximately $11,000 per year for tuition and room and board, although this varies based on your meal plan, room, et cetera. Figure on spending between $500 and $1000 on books for the year, maybe more or less depending on your courses.
The University has four ?quads? which are all slightly different. I lived on Indian Quad this year, which is all freshmen. To my understanding this quad is by far the loudest. There are alleged quiet hours, but there is noise here nearly all the time. You either get used to it fast, or you invest in a good pair of earplugs.
Based on other schools that I?ve visited I would say that the double rooms are about average size for a college. They are not by any means spacious, but they are certainly livable. However, if you get placed in (or choose) a single your room will be approximately the size of my closet at home.
I live in a ?suite? this year, which means according to UAlbany that there is a common area measuring about 3? by 5? connecting the three bedrooms and the bathroom. Due to some very messy suitemates this area remains somewhat filthy, but that?s entirely dependent on who you?re living with. The bathroom is functional with a toilet and shower stall and twin sinks. The university staff cleans (term used liberally) weekly; a HUGE complaint of mine is that they never supply us with enough toilet paper! Five girls need more than two rolls per week.
The University has several options for housing if you?re not into the idea of being roomed with a complete stranger in a less than spacious dorm. New for next year there are rooms called enhanced singles and enhanced doubles. These are double and triple rooms that are now only housing one or two people, respectively.
Ah yes, the actual "school" part of school. Classes vary a great deal. I was in an Introduction to Communication course that had over 400 people in it. Needless to say, attendance was not mandatory and the teacher wasn't on a first name basis with all of us. I've also been in several classes that are around thirty students each. I'm a Spanish minor and find that the language courses are very good. They are taught by graduate students, which is not the catastrophic thing that some smaller schools like to make it seem. In my experience grad students and teaching assistants not only care more about the students, they are more willing to spend extra time to help you with any problems. Both of my Spanish teachers have been highly competent. Do not expect anyone to hold your hand and walk you through all of your work though. To succeed here you must be self-motivated.
UAlbany offers a wide range of majors and minors and there are also many Study Abroad programs. Being in the capital of New York State there is a diverse range of internship opportunities available as well.
If you've read my restaurant reviews you can probably ascertain that the food, provided by Chartwells,is not the best. Home cooking it is not...well, not if you eat decently at home anyway. Each quad has its own dining hall which are all pretty much the same, although Dutch Quad is now offering something called Mex-Express which is supposed to be made to order Mexican style food and State Quad has Sweet Peas, the vegetarian bar. I haven't tried either of these, but I haven't heard anything too great about them.
The food is basic cafeteria fare -- chicken, hamburgers, hotdogs, tacos, et cetera. Lately Chartwells seems fond of taking breaded chicken tenders and slathering them in assorted sauces. Monday's Chicken Francaise is Tuesday's General Tso's...how's that for ethnic cuisine? While the food is mostly palatable, the chicken is often very tough (we're talking dog chewing on rawhide here) and they put bell peppers in absolutely everything. Pasta and vegetables both tend to be mushy and there is not an abundance of healthier choices.
However...there is a vegetarian section to each quad and I find that this food tends to be slightly better as well as more interesting...just stay away from the Tempeh Reubans. That's a mistake you only make once. There is a salad bar with decent selection and hamburgers and pizza are offered daily to those more finicky eaters.
Yes, UAlbany does have a reputation for being a big party school. Is it deserved? Well, yes and no. There is a near constant barrage of noise here (though at the moment it's not too bad...just some nice little birdies chirping), and students do go out to bars and come home drunk. Yes, drunken students are especially noisy. Some UAlbany students drink seven nights a week. I am not a huge partyer myself, but it seems to me that a good number of the students don't go out and drink every weekend, or every other day, as the case may be, and such activities are easily avoidable.
There are bars downtown that are very easy to get into underage. If that's your sort of thing, you will be in paradise at UAlbany.
Which leads me to what there is to do here BESIDES getting really drunk. There is a decent bus system with two stops on campus, in the front and back, which runs until midnight all week and is free with a show of your student ID. There is the Crossgates Mall, which is very large, and nearby there is the upscale Stuyvesant plaza, which features some boutiqes as well as some places to eat. Downtown there are lots of bars and restaurants, but there is also the fascinating (and free!) New York State Museum. For fans of architecture Albany boasts some interesting buildings (again -- free!). The Pepsi Arena and the Egg often host large, well-known performers.
I'm a bit nervous about saying this, but here goes. I am a girl from a small mostly upper-middle class town. One of my main reasons for choosing UAlbany was its reasonable tuition fees. Wait, let me repeat that (I know people here, at least have a hard time understanding this concept): my parents don't have the money to send both my brother and I to a $35,000 per year school simultaneously. I do pay for such things as books and phone bills on my own. However, it seems to me that a great deal of the students here are rich kids who were either too stupid or too lazy to get into better schools and are thus "stuck" here...or maybe they were drawn to all the beer.
This leads to an overall apathetic feeling towards academics from many of the students, particularly the ones who are lucky enough that money really does grow on trees. (Genus Treeicus Parenticus) It is rare to see someone sans cell phone, though I guess that's common anywhere (I'm stuck in the past on that one). This is not to say that everyone here is a snotty brat; on the contrary I find that most students are friendly, or at least polite.
I realize that, ironically, this review of a university consists mainly of information that is not academic related. If you want to know academics and statistics, UAlbany has a decent website at www.albany.edu. You should be able to attain such things there.
I hope that I have been able to shed a little light on the college experience as a whole, rather than just the glossing over that the tours and viewbooks provide. If I've left anything out or you have any questions about UAlbany feel free to let me know. Thanks for reading.