Thin Air of Rocky Mountain 5 – Fort Collins

CSU Fort Collins

csu2In Fall of 1983, about two weeks after our marriage, Hana and I moved to Colorado State University. She was then studying mathematics, and I enrolled the Chemical Engineering program. CSU has a nice green campus. It was governed by the Colorado State Board of Agriculture along with University of Southern Colorado, Pueblo (now known as CSU Pueblo). It was located about 1 hour North of Denver and 45 Minutes South of Cheyene and Laramie in Wyoming.

Fort Collins has a different outlook compared to Pueblo. The latter was dusty and a bit barren and the former was more green and neat,  but nothing was better than the community and friendships that we had in Pueblo as we were more like brothers and sisters rather than mere friends. So, when we moved, we immediately felt lonely. It was a new place and we need to know new people. Mat Pyan, Cik Pah, Breng, Azah and Chah stayed back in Pueblo. From time to time I traveled south to meet them.

Walking, skateboarding or Cycling - a norm in CSU

Walking, skateboarding or Cycling - a norm in CSU

The CSU campus was large, with  green areas in between clusters of buildings and big trees to provide shadows for students to relax, read or have their lunch in fresh air. The buildings were connected with neatly paved walkway. Since my classes were also scattered, I had to cycle from one building to another. Industrial Design was in the north, Engineering was in the centre near the library and student unions, Chemistry was within 5 minutes walk, and the furthermost was Food Science, which  was about 5 minutes cycling from Engineering complex.

Aggie Village South

Aggie Village South in Winter

Aggie Village South in Winter

We lived in Aggie Village South, next to Holiday Inn, Fort Collins. I cycled to the university, be it in summer or winter. After one winter, I mastered the skill to cycle on icy road or pavement, but not without  an  accident.

Chemical Engineering at Colorado State University

The chemical engineering program at CSU was small with a class size of about 30. The department was then called “Department of Chemical & Agricultural Engineering” as it offered both Chem E and Ag E. Apart from me, the only foreigner and an African American called Pierre, the rest of the class were Caucasian. Most were serious with study and a few were really bright. Few emerged among the top students of the university. In fact, CSU enjoyed good quality intake and Chem Eng at CSU was then in the stage of building its reputation. Perhaps this was the reason why in most major courses, Norm Normalizations were used. In those cases, only 10 % of the class were allowed to obtain an A grade (4.0 grade point). In a class of 30, if you are the 4th, you would be most unfortunate as you’ll be given a B with 3.0 grade point. When normalization was not used, grade distribution followed that 90 % and above were for A, 80% – 89% for B, 70% – 79% for C, 60% -69 % for D. Anything below 60 % was given an F. The environment was thus quite competitive.

Bard Moved to CSU

I could not remember exactly when Badhrul (Bard) and Meen stopped by in Fort Collins in 1984. I think it was in the summer when they took summer school in Arizona. During their stay, I managed to convince him to move to CSU and they did. So, in the  Spring of 1985, I had my old friend with me in the same class, with me for most of the major courses. This also helped my involvement in dakwah activity as it was then more convenience for me to go khuruj as at least there will be other Malaysian in the group. Together with Bard, we gathered some others to join in the activities.

Fishing in Rocky Mountain Area

Fresh-cool Poudre River

Fresh-cool Poudre River

Talking about fishing in Rocky Mountain, most of the time it means  looking for rainbow trouts in a fast flowing streams of clean and cold water. In this setting, two techniques were typically used – fly fishing or casting using spinners – I preferred the latter. Poudre River provided many good spots and we had enjoyed them immensely.

Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout

As an alternative, we also frequented Watson Lake. In this case, worms or salmon egg were  used as baits. The trips to Watson lake were normally organised immediately after the dawn prayer, to ensure arrival before sunrise. There were 2 reasons for this. First, I like the sight of beautiful sunrise in Watson Lake. Second, we normally caught more in early morning. By noon, we were home with few freshly caught trouts for dinner.

In winter, we sometimes went for ice fishing. On one occasion, after waiting for about 2 hours, we only caught one rainbow trout. We were then praying on the thick ice, in the middle of the lake, and I told Bard that God had answered our prayer.

In spring and summer, the city hall also released school of trouts in City Park lake and managed to pull a large crowds of leisure-fishing enthusiasts including Hana and I. Another place that we used to go was Shield pond, where bluegills can be found. For this, Hana did most of the fishing and I was her assistant.

Reality Check.

Marriage had changed me a lot – although Hana might want to contest this statement – as I could no longer think about myself only and had to consider our future together. My good old spontaneous character had to be managed in one way or another. Two semesters after enrolling the ChE program at CSU, I still had the bad habits of skipping classes.  Being overconfident with academic capability, I had skipped most classes, but maintained  the good habit of doing all homework on my own, and attended all exams. As a result, I survived all the courses with an average score with some B’s and C’s.

One day I received a message from Professor  Vincent  Murphy  my academic adviser, who was  also the head of department. He was teaching us Unit Operation.  He said to Bard, “Tell Arshad that if still intends to be a food engineer, he better start turning up for classes, or else I’ll strike his name out”.

I had once told Vince Murphy that I wanted to be a food engineer. In those days, I thought that by becoming a food engineer, I could do something in helping people to eat better and healthier food. Wow, that was a noble intention, wasn’t it?  In fact, the idea persisted in me for many years, even today. I can still remember that during the interview session with UTM’s management in 1986, I explained them that I wanted to educate people about food quality and food safety. I can still remember that one of the interviewers was really interested and start pursuing on this issue. I further explained that it is important that the public know what they eat, whether it is good or bad, halal or haram. I also told them that I was interested in being active in NGO for that purpose, something like CAP or FOMCA.

I took the message from Prof. Murphy seriously and was in deep thought that day and night. After full reflection of everything that matters, I made a commitment. The next day, I was a different person. That was the turning point. Since that day, I rarely missed any lecture and my grades improve rapidly with A’s and B’s.


About Dr. AA

I am an educator, professional trainer, safety consultant, researcher, social worker, outdoor enthusiast, and a thinker.
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5 Responses to Thin Air of Rocky Mountain 5 – Fort Collins

  1. A Latifi Rahman says:

    Salam alaik chad!!! agak trharu kegembiraan membaca blog kau ini .. mungkin kerana terlalu banyak memori yg tersingkap semasa bersama2 di colorado dulu … bila boleh jumpa semula ??

  2. Ramzy says:

    I enjoy reading your story anyways. TQ

  3. salam prof…

    nice picture… membaca entry prof buat saya terfikir untuk apa saya memilih chemical engineering…

    • Dr. AA says:

      Salam, everything in life has got its purpose, either intentionally or accidentally. But if things happen by design, the end results are often better and perhaps more satisfying.

  4. ISHAK NORDIN says:

    Prof Arshad,

    Membaca catatan perjalanan hidupmu semasa di Colorado, mengembalikan semula kenangan lama yg amat nostalgic buat diriku. Baru kusedari, di kalangan 20 anak muda yg dihantar ke Boulder, Colorado 28 tahun yg lalu, kaulah satu-satunya yg tidak berganjak dari Colorado sehingga tamat pengajian peringkat Ijazah.

    Terima kasih kerana masih sudi berkongsi suka-duka kehidupan awal kita semasa di USA. Kenangan hingga bila-bila………….

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