I promised you that when I got back from break, I would write a more serious entry about academics (gasp!).
I am a sophomore majoring in Computer Science. You will find that Caltech gives you a balance--lots of courses deep within your chosen academic option, but plenty of space to branch out and make connections to other fields if you so desire. My current course schedule is as follows:
CS 024 - Introduction to Computing Systems
This class focues on the computer as we know it today. In the first week, we looked at the big jump from thinking of electricity and telephone relays to thinking about a Mathematical, computational machine. The homework was interesting but occasionally frustrating -- do you know how hard it is to debug code when it is written with only 0s and 1s!?!?!?! This week we are moving into assembly language. By the end of the course, we will have climbed the ladder of abtraction all the way to Operating Systems and how they work.
CS 038 - Introduction to Algorithms
Last term I took a course (CS 021 - Decidability and Tractibility) in which we examined problems and whether they could ever hope to be solved by a computer. This course focuses on the art of coming up with an algorithm to solve a problem, and analyzing how efficient (or inefficient) it is.
Hum/H 003C - European Civilization: Modern Europe
Not your average history class. There is no memorization of dates or long textbook readings. There is a lot of movie watching and a few essays, and we learn history first hand by interpreting the audience for which classic films were designed.
L 112C - Intermediate Spanish
I absoluely love Spanish -- it is a beautiful language, and in today's day and age, it is very practical as well! The Spanish faculty at Caltech are great. It frequently feels like we are sitting in the professor's living room chatting and gossiping, even though we are actually in a classroom learning gramatical structures.
PE 001C - Student Designed Fitness
The student sets fitness goals, and you get support from PE department folks to help you acheive it. It's the next best thing to a personal trainer!
Ph 012C - Waves, Quantum Physics, and Statistical Mechanics
This term is Statistical Mechanics, which you may know as "Thermodynamics." Technically, Thermodynamics is derived from Statistical Mechanics. We make only one assumption--we assume that every state of a system is equally likely, and that is enough to derive all the things you know from high school--the ideal gas law, pressure/volume work, etc. The professor is a really funny guy. He once made a reference to a potential energy "U" on the chalkboard which he hadn't talked about for a while. I asked him "which one is U?" He took a few steps forward, started waving his hands around, and said "this one is me! =)"
I hope that this gives you a brief glimse of what academics are like at Caltech. I'll be back soon with more cool stuff to share!