Observation stories from #mag5580

Tate time

When you stroll into the Tate Student Center at the University of Georgia, you will encounter a hub of fellowship. Seated in the lounge area across from the Bulldog Cafe is a group of African-American students socializing in between classes. This is the section of the day these students like to call “Tate Time.”

At 10 a.m. in the morning, a group gathers around. As hours pass by, the crowd grows in size. When one student leaves for class, at least two more come to take its place.

Here, you hear a range of conversation topics, including anything from rigorous coursework to sports debates to this weekend’s hangout spots. At Tate Time, the next Communication Law exam is as big an issue as the end of Kentucky’s undefeated season. Girls exchange fashion tips while science majors plan study dates for the next OChem test.

As lunchtime nears, students who are not on meal plan begin to indulge in their meals. The smell of hot wings, Chick-Fil-A sandwiches and pastas fill the atmosphere, followed by requests to share by those who have not yet eaten.

As more students enter and exit the vicinity, hugs and high fives are exchanged in large numbers. Even students who are clearly in a hurry make time to lend an embrace and an encouraging word or two. Sounds of laughter even provoke smiles in passersby.

To the oblivious observer, this scene may seem to be nothing more than a simple gathering, but to these students who are often the minority in their classrooms and organizations, this is a time to experience the camaraderie they lack in most interactions they endure at UGA.

Athens Transit

Students and professionals board the bus and swipe their student ids or insert coins to pay the cost of a ride. They only thing riders have in common is need for transportation and the understanding of silence and personal space.

Half listening to music through headphones, the other half typing texts on their phones, no one engaging with anyone else. The only noise that cuts the air conditioning drone is the automated voice alerting the riders of the next stop.

“Now approaching the Georgia Center.”

Athens Transit serves as a breakfast bar, a coffee house, a gossip parlor and a medium from point A to point B. A ride is a blip in a day in the life, a non-important event, yet essential.

“Now approaching Soule Hall.”

The carpeted seats reek of stale poptarts and an old skating rink. Conducive for collecting scents, crumbs, and stains, the seats enduring a beating every day.

“Now approaching Physics.”

Without public transit, the Athens appearance would evolve. The students would be tardy, if in class at all. Professionals would be dressed in tennis shoes, not heels. Traffic would clog up the streets and gridlock the historical streets.

“Now approaching memorial hall.”

As the majority of riders exit, they forget the last 14 minutes of their ride and move on with the events of their lives as if the ride never even happened.

The horde

On any given day at the University of Georgia campus in Athens, Georgia, one is bound to see a horde of students walking to and from classes. Such was the case Tuesday morning after UGA’s 9:30 a.m. classes ended.

Students poured out of classrooms and buildings to begin their treks to their next sessions. Those students who left classes from buildings in the heart of campus, including the Zell B. Miller Learning Center, the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication building and the psychology building, ventured to various parts of campus.

Many of them hustled up Sanford Drive to get to their classes at UGA’s North Campus. The students crossed Baldwin Street, then climbed up the three flights of stairs that lead to that part of the campus. To the students’ left was Park Hall, which houses UGA’s English department, and to their right was LeConte Hall, home to the history department. The Terry College of Business building was in front of them. The students entered the buildings for their upcoming classes.

There was quite a bit of activity on Baldwin Street while the students journeyed between classes. Several cars were passing through, but stopped when the bevy of students crossed the road. Included in all the liveliness were cyclists, too. They weaved in and out of the lanes, trying to get through the stopped traffic. A few of them nearly collided with some of the walking students, since there was so much commotion and congestion on the road. With all of the activity, there was quite a bit of noise.

A few UGA buses fought through all the traffic as well. The East West, Orbit and Milledge Avenue route buses were forced to stop periodically as students used crosswalks and, at one point, jaywalked across the street. Those buses released gaseous fumes that filled the air with an unpleasant odor. The traffic light was a factor in the crowded road, as it turned red at various points. This allowed the students to cross Baldwin Street, but also stopped the vehicles.

Kayla sits

Kayla sits leaning against the stairs watching as the students disperse onto campus around her. Some run fast, while others seem to drag, probably thinking about all the other things they would rather be doing than sitting in a classroom doing work. Kayla sits there observing the area around her while she breathes in the air filled with the slight smell of food approaching from the dining hall down the road. With the warmth in the air wrapping around her skin, she listens closing to the construction going on across the street. The clanking of metal and the yelling of the workers wanders into her ears while she wishes they would stop. The noise of the construction ruins her relaxation before heading to her own classes.

Two people stand outside the Special Collections Library chatting intensely. While watching the two converse, Kayla silently makes up her own commentary to their conversation. She watches people often while she sits somewhere in public and relaxes. Kayla likes to call it “people watching”. Turning her head to right, she watches the line of traffic grow as students file across the road. Buses sit and wait impatiently for students to pack on anxiously awaiting their next class or destination. Outside the Miller Learning Center is always the busiest area on campus. So many people, cars, and buses flood the same area trying to get to different places. As Kayla’s thirty minutes of extra down-time before class slowly approaches its end, she stands up and sighs taking one last look at her surroundings. Next time she has a thirty minute break, she knows to choose a different spot on campus that’s more secluded and quiet.


The Starbucks Coffee shop on the corner of Hull and Broad Street in Athens has become arguably one of the busiest places each morning. The patrons are silhouettes against the light coming from the windows outside. Most are rushing in and out as an attempt to get caffeine before their classes. One woman wearing black comes in, she doesn’t take her eyes off of her phone until reaching the counter. She bites her lip as she looks over the pastry shelf. She chooses a morning bun, imagining the baked good covered in cinnamon and brown sugar.

The woman in black takes a deep breath as she waits for her drink. Another patron waiting for his own drink grabs one on the counter and rushes out of the coffee shop. The woman can see him dash across the street before he waits just on the side of the cross walk. She takes another breath. She can hear the jazz playing over the speakers except when she can’t. The small shop becomes crowded as more and more professionals, students, tourists, or any combination of the three bustle in.

The music changes to the next song creating a silence interrupted by the grinding of coffee. The barista finishes grinding the beans and a cloud of coffee dust enters the air as she replaces the grounds in the main machine. A commotion occurs when someone realizes that the man from earlier grabbed their drink instead of the one he ordered. The woman in black sits down at the bar across from the counter. From her seat she can see through the blinds, almost playing a voyeur as she observes people and cars pass by the corner. The barista calls her order and brings her red mug to where she is sitting. She takes another breath and leaves the shop.

A bookstore

Bookstore is a classic and old-fashionded place. Especially in the moring time, most customers in a bookstore are retired oldmen. For the Barns&Noble in Athens, it’s a tranquil place even though there are low background music. There is a sound of rummaging pages, low-sounded greetings from staffs and steaming noise of Starbucks coffee machine.

New books smell unique, somewhat like a gas station. Smell of new book is from paper and ink, intoxicating people. Every kinds of books have different smells. Magazine with lots of colorful photos has much more strong book smell.

Children’s picturebooks are most colorful and have various sizes. Pop-up books make children giggle and surprised. During a storytime in the bookstore on Saturday, the Barns&Noble is filled with sound of children’s laughter and chattering.

There is old chinse official who is also famous as a fisherman. He was selected as a high position of official while fishing. His fishing pole had no bait and just a wire. When people asked him “what are you fishing without a bait?”, he answered “I’m fishing a life.”

Oldmen in the Barns&Noble are like the chinese official. They are not just reading books or newspapers but spending their remaining lives in a bookstore. Fishig a life by river and reading books in a bookstore looks similar.

Bulldog Cafe

After walking past UGAzine taking pictures and giving away Munchkins and Phi Beata Heata’s jewelry sale set up there is a place where people gather to eat, study, and even simply hang out: Bulldog Café.

The tables of various sizes are aligned so they look organized and neat. Students and workers fill these tables either by themselves or with their acquaintances. Many of the students have their laptops out as they study or appear to be focused on their work. Majority of these laptops are Macs. There are more students working than there are students actually eating in the Café. However, a number of students are multitasking as they eat and work.

The sounds of students chattering and laughing are heard throughout the entire cafe. Not all the students choose to be productive this morning. Beneath the sounds of cafe’s occupants, you can hear pots and utensils clattering back in the kitchen.

Of the students sitting alone, their headphones are what seem to be keeping them company and tuned out from the world around them.

Although the students are tuned out from the sounds around them, they cannot avoid the aroma that is so distinct in the air. The smell is a mixture of the burgers, fries, pasta, and other foods made and sold at the cafe. The smell of caffeine lingers in the air as well.

Academic center

I pushed open the heavy doors into the Rankin Smith Academic Center. Students rush to the study rooms, while others linger and talk in the lobby. The lobby smelled like pollen, changed to a mix of cleaning supplies and peanut butter as I walked towards the stairs. The marble stairs were narrow, wide enough only for two people at a time. There is a small room at the top of the stairs, which splits into two different rooms. The room to the right holds rows of computers. The room to the left contains study rooms.

I entered the computer room and immediately saw students busy typing away. The room sounded quiet, with the exception of keyboards typing. One student looked anxiously at the jammed copy machine. The expression on his face said he was running was late to class. Ten students stared at their computer screens, flipping from their email to their homework assignments. Two students were immersed in their phones and did not look up for ten minutes. I left the room as the sound of soft music and typing followed me out the door.

The study room section of Rankin looked like a maze. I walked through the doorway and did not know where to look first. Two students lounged in chairs, while listening to music. The see-through study rooms are mostly empty, with the exception of two students. One student faced the whiteboard. She stared at the chemistry problems on the board. The other student had her head buried in her book.

The Rankin Smith Center seemed empty on this morning.

The robot

Abbey walked toward Tate Plaza, the smell of Chick-fil-A wafting through the air, and noticed children running around with iPads on the SLC lawn. She intended to sit at the benches on the other side of the SLC. She stopped to observe the kids instead of continuing. Four elementary aged boys walked up to every passing adult and asked if they wanted to play with a robot. Most students smiled, but declined the offer. Some hesitated, but obliged and stopped to see the toy.

A boy, Taylor, ran to Abbey, iPad in hand and said, “Would you like to control my robot?” She glanced down at the ball rolling around at her feet and nodded. Taylor beamed and explained how the iPad controls the “Sphero”. He pointed to an app that control the robot through arrows on the screen.

As he opened a new control app that allows the user to draw the path of the sphere, a college student, Hannah, walks up to them. She explains that the children are on campus to promote an upper-level UGA elective. In this class, UGA students can work at a local elementary school and teach kids about learning technologies. As Hannah talks, Abbey picks up the robot ball and notices that it has a smooth texture.

According to Hannah, the UGA students taking the class now did not want to hand out flyers in Tate Plaza to promote the class. Instead, they developed a plan to use the kids as a promotional tool, as well as give them the opportunity for a field trip.The UGA students told the kids that they were promoting the class by teaching college students about the technologies they use.

As Hannah explained the idea to Abbey, Taylor drew different paths on the iPad for the Sphero to follow.

“So far everyone has drawn hearts. I don’t know why,” he said.

Tate Center lounge

There were three reasons to enter the third-floor Tate Student Center lounge: to conduct a study group, to watch SportsCenter or to sleep.

The rows of leather chairs, worn and stale from decades of use, face the flat-screen TV, which blared news about Tiger Woods’ chances in the next PGA Tour event with a volume fit for a movie theatre.

Three young men huddled around a table in the back of the room preparing for an exam. ESPN was loud so the students got even louder. Conversation switched between infectious disease and whatever the talking head of the TV had to say.

Despite the noise, three students slept soundly.

There are few places in America where it’s socially acceptable to sleep in public: maybe the airport or poolside at a beach resort. This rule doesn’t exist on a college campus. Go to any building at any time of day and there’s a good chance you’ll find an exhausted student wearing white earbuds attached to her iPhone dozing away on a couch or bench.

Even with this cultural acceptance, finding students napping students in this environment is still a shock.

One student shielded the noise with headphones; another wrapped his sweat shirt around his head like a mask; but a third student dozed just five feet away from the TV with no sound or sight barrier.

Glass windows encased the lounge on three sides, as if it were an exhibit in a natural history museum: The Adaptability of the American College Student.

Conventional wisdom says the three actions cannot be accomplished in a lounge no bigger than a dorm room, but seven undergraduates proved coexistence possible.

Village Summit

The Village Summit dining hall at UGA this morning had less students than other times of the day. Many of the students there were eating breakfast before their Tuesday-Thursday classes began. During breakfast, coffee becomes the most popular drink choice among diners as the stench of coffee fills the air. The egg works line rivals coffee as the most populated station as breakfast foods are limited. Only half of the normal food lines are open until breakfast ends. Student workers make up the majority of the servers in the morning. Most appear lackadaisical as usual, eager for their shift to end. The only noise comes from music played over the dining hall speakers.

Many of the same people eating at this time on Tuesdays and Thursdays are in the building. This morning, similar to most mornings, I have eggs, oatmeal, coffee, and a banana. The eggs vary from good to decent depending on the cook. This morning, my egg cook did a solid job cooking the eggs. As a bonus, I was the first person in line and my eggs were cooked in less than five minutes. After my eggs were done, I walked to the main entree line and scooped some oatmeal. The oatmeal tastes fine unless someone adds too much water in which case it is unedible. Next up, I headed over to the fruit section and looked for a banana that appeared satisfactory. For my beverages, I filled a cup with water and a mug with coffee. The consistency of the coffee helps sets the tone for the remainder of the day, or until the caffeine wears off.

Instructional plaza

The staircase sticks out like a sore thumb, inviting students to embark on a journey. Travelling down the staircase allows students to approach a plaza, filled with trees and benches. From there, the opportunities are endless.

In one area of the plaza, three students spray painted dishes, possibly for a project. The smell of the paint fills the air for a few seconds, causing one student to cough and gasp for air. A bike stand is constructed along the wall on the students’ left side, housing three bikes. As a new student parks his bike, he looks around in confusion, wondering why these students are spray painting. He darted to the opposite end of the plaza, doing his best to escape the smell. From there, he decides to read a book and enjoy the cool weather. However, the weather was short-lived, lasting only a few seconds until rain drops smashed upon his book. Ducking for cover, he relocates to an area under the staircase, free of any additional rain that may fall and able to read his book in tranquility.

As the rain stopped, students flocked towards the staircase, heading towards their next class. The plaza, located in a popular area of campus, has walkways that lead to various spots, such as North Campus, the bus stop next to Grady, or Sanford Stadium. Minutes wind down until the next class begins and students hustle to make it on time.

The staircase disappears from the view of the students. The plaza is left completely empty, besides the few trees and benches that are scattered.

Creepy Tombstone Corner

Students and professors walk past the tomb-like benches by the Miller Learning Center, most not even noticing the blocks of concrete. Professor Greenman strolls past, wearing sunglasses, even though it is a cloudy Thursday morning. A girl in an ROTC uniform laughs with her friend while they sip on fresh coffee. Another girl wanders into the outskirts of the ring of benches and sits on the stone wall to finish her conversation on the phone. A boy who clearly spends the majority of his time in the Ramsey Center struts by on his way inside the MLC. All of these people, pass and continue on their way before another girl is brave enough to venture into the mix of stone and grass. With no busses passing by at the moment, the sound of her unzipping her backpack is like a start gun going off at the beginning of a race. She sits down and promptly begins flipping through a book that weighs more than a small child.

The grass is green and lush, and the flowers are beginning to bloom on the surrounding trees. From afar, the benches appear rugged and cold, when in reality they are smooth with a fresh coat of pollen. There are outlines from where a few people have sat down in the pollen earlier, probably getting up with yellow marks on their clothes now. There is a slight breeze that swirls the pollen and makes a few of the passing students sneeze. It is springtime in Athens.

Tate Print & Copy

The Tate Student Center at the University of Georgia usually fills up with laid-back students playing on their laptops to pass the time until their next classes. Once that time to change classes happens, however, Tate receives an influx of students heading off in different directions. The Print & Copy services center stands as one of the most popular destinations for these students passing through. While students are in class, this room remains quiet and empty of people, but filled with the smell of fresh printer ink and the sound of the buzzing of computers. Then comes the rush between classes, where students try to print out their papers or notes for their next class as fast as they can.

Students run to an open computer, if they can find one, and log on using their UGA ID and password. Once students log on and print their items, they head to the supply desk where they staple or hole-punch their papers. After that, they wait in line to pay for what they have printed. The students in line to pay manage to fill the entire room with an anxious energy as they worry they will be late to the class where the papers are due. Once students pay, they tend to dramatically swing open the door and speed walk to their destination. There will be the few late stragglers who are more concerned about showing up with their paper than showing up on time, but eventually the next class will start and the Print & Copy center will once again become quiet and empty.

Jittery Joe’s

On the second floor of the Miller Learning Center, you can see a popular Jittery Joes coffee shop where students and faculty alike feed their caffeine addiction. I waited in line for coffee there this morning for about fifteen minutes. The hallway leading to Jittery Joes was very crowded, due to students entering and exiting classrooms. The aroma of coffee was present even at the back of the line. I witnessed a seeing eye dog using the restroom in the middle of the floor. I heard the owner of said seeing eye dog (Penny) yell at her for her untimely mistake. I did not want to watch the owner pick up the dog poop so I looked away, facing a wall where I noticed a bulletin board. I read on a poster push pinned to the board that reading day is April 28th, which I did not know. The owner of Penny continued to clean up the mess and chastise her. The line moved forward, and I looked at a new fixture on the wall that I had never seen before, a giant Jittery Joes sign made out of scrap metal. I touched the sign, feeling the cool metal at my fingertips. I then proceeded to the register where the cashier took my credit card and Jittery Joes coupon card. The cashier hurriedly handed me my drink. I bought a medium coffee and tasted the boldness of the flavor. The coffee was hot but worth the wait. I then sat at a table near Jittery Joes and watched other customers wait in line. The coffee kept dripping so I collected napkins to clean up after myself. I later learned that I had not attached the lid correctly to the cup.

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