Before I even start let me state I was never a marks oriented student.  I did what I needed to get by.  This philosophy  got me  through High School and into my local state collage way back in 1959.  I always felt learning was one thing and marks were another.   This was my first miscalculation.  Marks are everything learning is entirely dispensable.    

To me people looking for marks had no problem in forgetting what they had learned two days after the test.  I however had a distorted faith that the system would stand me in good stead if I focused on learning. That was a major mistake number two..        

So in September of 1959 I found myself starring down at an endless row of blue beanies stretched all the way down the hill to Kenny Gymnasium.  It was the opening convocation of 1959 and as a freshman studying electrical engineering  at the University of Rhode Island.  I began to question if this was really a good school for me.  Even then I felt alienated by the attitudes around me.  

In those years there really was only one choice and the University of Rhode Island was it.     

 I found studying difficult but managed to complete the first semester and almost made the deans list except for flunking English. Spelling was impossible for me so I would modify my writing to use only those words I could spell. This of course was a disaster.  

Anyway the English class was repeated I joined a theater group and forgot about the deans list.  Electrical engineering was OK but in a foolish action I switched to Physics.

In retrospect if someone had talked to me about the switch perhaps I would have reconsidered it but talking to students was not a URI strong point.  I did have a "advisor" but our dialog was limited to "where do I sign". I was on my own and after having a good physics teacher in high school  I assumed the teachers in collage would be better.  This was major mistake number 3.  In fact no one  at URI could measure up to my high school teacher but as this fact became clear I felt stuck in physics.    

My marks dropped.  My teachers seemed more interested in getting my spelling right than in understanding physics.  I remember one lab session where we were trying to take pictures of water waves traveling in a tank.   I added a transformer to allow the oscillator to put more energy in a wire suspended between two magnet poles.   The pictures got much better but when it was graded the professor gave me a D.  Then added a note "Good pictures though".   

Major mistake number four was not considering the fact that being in Physics I would need to take German.  I had no use for languages.  What I really wanted to do was to understand science but this was beyond the purview of URI.  URI never taught understanding.    

German at URI became a huge insurmountable problem.   The German teachers seemed to come right out of the gestapo. I flunked German twice.    

And then there was physical chemistry.  I had a  issue with Professor Parks because he gave the same exams year after year and the fraternity could save them in their files.  My answer was to walk into one of my exams and simply write down the answers from last years exam.   Nothing else, no calculations.   I got a B on that exam but an F for the final mark in spite of having passing grades.    

ROTC was more of the the same.  I thought the class started when I arrived in the classroom and tended to carry my rifle like a  suitcase.  It was easier (or so I thought).  Here again in spite of passing grades I received an F.

Years later at City College I read an article about a journalism major who interviewed an Army general.  At one point in the interview the student told the general that "he was not one of his Enlistees that can be ordered about"  Within 6 months that student was out of collage,  drafted and stationed in Vietnam.

Even in astronomy where my 19 year old brain could not quite accept being taught by a professor in his late 90's.  It just did not work.   Another F.

In summary to my way of thinking there was no way in hell that anyone would pay me anything for what passed as an education as peddled by URI.  
Finally after suffering for 4 years at URI I got a letter in the mail.  While my classmates were graduating I had flunked out.  I had always assumed that if the situation was really bad someone would talk to me.  This was major mistake number five.  URI did not talk to students.   

What I did not know was how the system worked. Other students who had also flunked out had an secret weapon.  This was a parent with a college degree.  These parents  simply sat down with the professors and negotiated an incomplete for the mark and an extended summer session report that the student could complete to pull his mark up.   Me with an immigrant for a a mother and a father who died when I was 16 there was no sitting down with a professor.

1963 was really a bad year to flunk out as it put me in the front line of the draft for the Vietnam war.  My fellow students with degrees were officer material.

As it turned out it was an operation I had on my knee that made the medics rate me as a 1Y which meant I was not to be chosen if more able people were available.  Being able to walk was a big thing to the Army.  

My next step was to decide to go to California. I was used to hitchhiking as I never had any money so I set out one morning heading west.  It took about a week but i eventuality would up renting a room in Berkley CA.  I spent the summer there and met a Harvard student who was auditing an advanced calculus class.  This to me seemed like a tremendous waste of money and when I asked him about it he responded that when he returned to Harvard in the fall he would take the class for real.  His summer exposure would put him ahead of all the other students.     

Well the summer ended,   My room went back to the original renter and I found lodging with a group of guys working at Stamford. They even gave me a free car.   I became a shipping clerk at $1.50 an hour  but it turned out the car used a tremendous amount of gas.  I was not able to eat, pay rent and put gas in the car. That was when I asked for a raise.  "How much do you want" the suit asked me. "$1.55 an hour" I said.  "Well maybe you should leave now he said".  "OK" I answered and walked out into the mild February weather of Mountain View California and returned to the east coast.
Living in Rhode Island was impossible and after a little encouragement by my NYC friends I packed what I had and moved to the big Apple.

This is where I began to put my life together.   With the help of friends I tried therapy,  Got a job, and was able to live without a gas guzzling car.  

I began taking classes at City College and before long had enough credits to graduate....except German.  I needed one year of German.  So out of a job like an ass I left NYC  moved with my girlfriend to Kingston, RI and registered for 1 semester of German at URI.  Major mistake number six became clear when the professor showed up on the first day of class to announce he had forgotten to order books for the class.  We would be taking  the class without books!  I dropped the class, got a job for the summer and moved back to NYC in the fall.

My degree was mailed out after completing two semesters of German at City College.  It came 5 years after my supposed graduation date of 1963.   

After my endless string of mistakes taking courses at City College was a breath of fresh air.  They actually taught.   They had professors I could respect.   My German professor was a native German who really tried to teach German.    It was a day and night experience.     

On the other hand the world is a strange place.  When i was in High school I met a student named John.  John did what I should have done, entered URI, majored in Electrical Engineering,  Graduated on time,  Went on to work in Groton, CT for electric boat and died at the age of 65.  I have spent time in the Groton New London area and was always amazed at the pollution there.  Between Dow Chemical, EB, Pfizer and three nuclear plants it is a very unhealthy place.  As I write this John has been dead 13 years.

So what should I have done different.   Should I as   said be true to yourself or stuff it an conform to the system.   I have no idea.