What is it like to be in an Ivy League. Just a musing.


I came across two questions in Quora without anybody showing a proclivity so far to answer. One of it was and the other follows.

1. What is it like to be a Professor in Columbia University.

(In the middle of NY city, you gotta be kidding me, so me some leads I am there)

2. What is it like to be a Professor in Cal Tech.

Those of you who do not know, this and the one in 1 are two Ivy Leagues, that is that’s where you meet the real legends, like Bill Gates and the Laureates and the cool other people who have actually done something in their lives, no offense, its not mind numbingly awesome, to meet some of the worthless fellas in life, who nonetheless are tenured scientists, lets say most of the places in non-ivy leagues or unknown territories are filled with such geniuses. To not add salt to injury, but to say, if you are so good go to the Ivy Leagues, or one day you will find yourself in an asylum, a way in which countries like India are fond of functioning. Of-course once you have been there, you can make a better judgement than what I might be saying in retrospection.

So the first thing that crosses my mind when I read the questions is this. It sucks out there. Exactly how it does though?

See if I have not been there, “It sucks, I will never go there.” A case of sour grapes. If I am out of there “it sucked, you better believe my stories.” You better believe my stories, but not many will listen to your stories. Because the punch line of the stories are probably less attractive than when you were there.

So in-fact these are the ascendants and descendants respectively that might have something to tell you, how so ever soar they sound, useful first or 2nd or 3rd hand information of how these legendary places function. You think people don’t talk about how I function? All they get is how I do stuff in my bath room, because none could fig out exactly how I function when I m not in my bath room. In their defense it was none of their call. Just like Universities, where either you have been or not, it may not matter to much as long as you could fig out exactly how they function.

So the thing is not to disregard the experience or information of those who have or not have been there. But to know what happens when someone is actually there, or tells you frankly and effectively what exactly it is like when he or she is there, while he (she) was there.

In that respect I will have zero scores. I was never in an Ivy League (except in my blue enamors) and if I will ever be there, I wouldn’t even know, it will take time for me, to realize I am in a place which is different. Perhaps they will all sound like nurses and caretakers. How are you doing, how are you feeling now? Like those walmart “may I help you” even if you know where exactly the bread section is.

But I give myself a chance of imagination. How does it feel like seeing the picture from outside. Of-course I come across people who worked in Ivy Leagues. Lets say tons of years ago.

They are very polite. There you go, don’t laugh. They can make the meekest cats look embarrassed when they talk. “Oh you arrreee. Okayyyy, nice meeting youuuu”. The words actually take a zillionth of a zillionth of attoseconds, to blurt out with extreme dexterity in how carefully they are spoken. The words make or break there careers. There you go again, please laugh a’gain. [what kind of English dictionary are you if you can’t fix the word to “please”, when its misspelled, Platea? Is that even a word?]

The words make or break there career. That’s not where the other kind would ever find themselves, except perhaps as less as it could happen.

But the point which I wanted to make clear is this. The ones that are there, or are willing to share what it really is like, to tell you because once they were there is this. They are unlike the other two, the grape sower (sower, not soar right?) and the ones that are still in free fall, (until they haven’t figured out there is a gravity canceling the effect of the acceleration) differ from the actual others who are there or were there, telling you what it is really like. For that you still have to hear from them. But this is how it would differ in how I can make sense of it.

The ones that did not end up there are or apparently averse to being there, are nonetheless fearful of hard competition and/or incapable of being in a task force that gets something actually done and/or do not have the requisite background and /or the men of their own imagination (of which I am not the worst kind). That’s the general situation. You can bring your own exceptions.

The ones that are in free fall need more communication from you than the other way. They have proved theme-selves but its not the right time to call them. They are not yet in the category where they still remember the golden principle of being in Ivy League. Be totally discerning. You are not in Ivy League you are in real world.

So that’s perhaps another idea how they would be dealing with you when there is a matter that throws you off guard.

The other aspect is from my own experience, while you are highly qualified, you are perhaps no more pouring in as much as even you would like to pour in, in terms of real research. You or your employers don’t want you to go into controversies, because they drain you out of wit and the employer runs into razor sharp issues. The Ivy Leagues have the “requisite infrastructure” which is cutting edge in a way preconceived notion kind of way. It really does not open the actual researchers to the issues involved in fundamental thinking. And sooner or later we all the highly intellectual kind belong to a level where we see our wit’s end. It takes the highly competitive experience of figuring out what exactly the Ivy League want from you for you and them to be successful lest which they are subjected to competitive and often no so harmless scrutiny from even tiny rats.

So being in a Ivy League while sees you in a world trotting avatar, with an enviable infrastructure for high quality research, it also opens you up, to the vast pressures of high altitude. Its like a Boeing Airplane, it carries you in awesome comfort and pace. Only the best of best know, what its shortcomings could be. Once the shortcomings are into the hands of the zealous perverts you will know no peace of mind. As Dalai Lama says, then, Peace comes from within.

You will be in a peace proof environment in Ivy Leagues, because external conditions have been taken care of. But the state of the art design might sometimes fail. Learn to go for some outings then.

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